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The Perth National Theatre Company – Part 2 of 2

Posted by ken On October - 2 - 2012

The Perth National Theatre Company was liquidated in 1984.

According to Australia Council figures, the National Theatre Company in Perth was struggling with operating deficits of $8,000 in 1981, $198,000 in 1982 and $672,000 in 1983. In February 1984 the National Theatre Company was liquidated and the Perth Theatre Trust took over the building and the running of the Playhouse Theatre, which then became the home to The Playhouse Theatre Company [1984–85], then briefly the Threshold Theatre Company before a name change to the XYZ Theatre Company, and finally adopting the title Western Australian Theatre Company [1985–1991]. Under the Labor Minister for the Arts, Kay Hallahan MLC, the resources of the Hole in the Wall and the WA Theatre Company were combined in 1991, with Ray Omodei appointed the first and only artistic director of the State Theatre Company. The company completed a full year’s program in 1992 at the Subiaco Theatre Centre (from where the Hole in the Wall had been operating since 1984), but on 11 March 1993, the directors announced that the company had ceased operation. The company’s request to the state government for advance funds of $1.2 million had been rejected and reduced by about half. The same day, Arts Minister Peter Foss, in the newly elected Liberal government, announced a review into the theatre industry in WA. Then the SWY Theatre Company, which has been producing professional theatre in Western Australia since its foundations in Fremantle in 1983 (after being established by graduates from the specialist Theatre Arts course at John Curtin Senior High School), moved to Perth in 1987 and was reborn as the Perth Theatre Company in 1994, to find a new home at the Playhouse Theatre in 1996. The Playhouse Theatre was managed by AEG Ogden (Perth) Pty Ltd on behalf of the Perth Theatre Trust.

The term SWY has its origins in the German zwei for two, with SWY being another name for the game of two-up.

The Playhouse Theatre closed in 2010 after 54 years, and operations shifted to the State Theatre Centre in January, 2011. The Black Swan State Theatre Company (which was formed in 1991 by Andrew Ross, Janet Holmes à Court and Jack Davis to perform first at the Octagon) and the Perth Theatre Company, are the resident companies of the new theatre centre on the corner of William Street and Roe Street in Northbridge. Productions of Black Swan are now performed in the Heath Ledger Theatre of the State Theatre Centre, whilst the Perth Theatre Company will present shows in the state of the art ‘black box’ performance space, the Studio Underground.


Wake – West Australian Monday December 6, 2010

The Playhouse Theatre is presently being demolished to make way for a new cultural centre and offices to be built on the site by the Anglican Diocese of Perth. It is proposed to construct a two storey Song School building between a new office building and the existing Deanery building. The Song School building will accommodate rehearsal and robe rooms on the lower level which open onto the landscaped garden around the Deanery building. The upper level will accommodate the Song School Hall.


Now the Playhouse Theatre is a Hole in the Wall theatre


Playhouse auditorium


Playhouse stage

The former Playhouse site will become a rehearsal and performance centre for the world-class St George’s Consort led by British organist and chorus master Joseph Nolan.

The $3 million music centre will be funded by an international donor as part of the redevelopment of the St George’s Cathedral precinct. This involves a $26 million cathedral redevelopment and an extension to Burt Hall, renovation of the Deanery, a new Ascalon sculpture (named after the lance used by St George to slay the dragon), remove the 1903 cathedral bell tower and construct a $5 million spire to complete the original 1880s design for the cathedral tower, as originally envisaged by the architect Edmund Blacket (1817-1883).


Demolition to rear of Land Titles Office

Demolition work is also taking place on the back wing of the Land Titles Office, and rear parts of the Old Treasury Buildings, which will be redeveloped for hotel and commercial uses.

This is just part of the demolition and redevelopments taking place on the heritage rich city block, bounded by the former Treasury Building, Town Hall, Law Chambers Building, the Public Trustee Building, the Playhouse, Deanery and St George’s Cathedral.


Demolition to rear of former Treasury Building

The red brick colonial Treasury buildings, which have been empty since 1996, will undergo a dramatic transformation. The ground floor, with its high-ceilinged postal hall will contain the lobby to a six-star hotel with 48 rooms, a day spa and other commercial tenancies, with hotel rooms and a commercial tenancy to occupy the building’s second, third and fourth floors. A 35-storey glass tower will soar between what remains of the heritage-listed former government offices and the Town Hall.


Redevelopment plans for the old Treasury in Perth


Perspective from former Land Titles Office


Hay Street aspect of proposed new development

A pedestrian plaza is proposed between the new office development on the Playhouse site, and the Song School building, accessible via Pier Street. The plaza will provide pedestrian connections and circulation through the site and link to a redeveloped Treasury Building and adjoining Land Titles Office. The Law Chambers, which is owned by the Anglican Diocese of Perth and housed the Diocesan offices and City of Perth lending library, is being demolished to make way for a new Perth City Council library.


Hay Street redevelopment around the St George’s Cathedral precinct

The Public Trustee Building at 565 Hay Street (which abuts the Law Chambers Building), has been sold to the Diocese, and will be refurbished for modern office accommodation and retail space. The building will be renamed Church House and leased to the State Government.


Satellite view of St George’s Cathedral, Burt Hall, the Playhouse and Deanery

Meanwhile, the Diocese will be based temporarily at one of its offices at 200 St Georges Terrace, while it builds a new office at the former Playhouse Theatre site.


Work taking place around the Deanery


Activity between the Deanery and the Playhouse

Sadly, Edgar Metcalfe, the man who did so much for this theatre passed away in the midst of all this drama – at a time when the theatre of dreams is being rendered to dust.


  • “History of Perth Theatre” by Marie Kathleen Fitzgerald
  • “Theatre Australia (Un)limited: Australian Theatre Since the 1950s” by Geoffrey Milne
  • “World Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Theatre: Asia/ Pacific” by Series Rubin

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