Page 8 - CinemaRecord #11R.pdf
P. 8

46.  St. Judes/Little/St Martins Theatre· South Yarra                           by Fred Page

              The genius of what was  to become the next most important repertory theatre to what is now the Melbourne
              Theatre Company in Victoria, began in the early months of 1931  when experienced actors Brett Randall and
              Hal Percy, in the Green Room Club, Melbourne, decided on the formation of a new theatre company.

              The first performance was of Miles Mallestons play "The Fanatics".  This starred the above principals and was
              staged at the Central Hall - later to become the Central/Grosvenor cinema. The income from this production
              was used to pay the staging costs and to create a fund to eventually be applied to building the Company's own

              "The Rescue Party" by Phyllis Morris was the next production and this was staged at the Fawkner Park Kiosk
              and  was  regarded  as being  culturally significant.  A  further twenty-one  plays were  performed  at this  venue
              which occurred under difficult circumstances as the stage had to be removed between shows as the venue had
              to be available for dances and other activities. Towards the end of 1933 several plays were presented in Kelvin
              Hall - later to become the Playbox Theatre and venue for a number of film shows.

              Now to St Chads, a disused church which was taken over by the Melbourne Little Theatre in 1934 with the first
              production of Georg Kaisers expressionist drama "Von  Morgens Bis Mitternachts" in  February of that year.
              This was an  ambitious  production with  a  cast of twenty-five and  seven  scene  changes.  This on a  stage
              measuring 15'x12'.  Moreover, there was a complete lack of backstage facilities, the biggest being no flytower.
              The prestige of the Company had grown to such an extent that by 1936 they staged seven plays in the Garrick
              Theatre (Snowden Cinema) and four at the Princess Theatre.  Only one play was performed at St Chads that

              The popularity of plays at St Chads, in spite of no heating which necessitated the audience taking rugs and hot
              water bottles in the winter, led to "seasons" being extended from one or two niqhts to two or three weeks in an
              auditorium of 126 seats. Performances continued at St Chads until early 1955 with an occasional show being
              staged at the National Theatre (St Peters Church Hall, East Melbourne).  Shows then transferred to the Arrow
              Theatre, Middle Park, the home of the Frank Thring (Jnr) players.

              During this period the new Little Theatre replaced St Chads. The first play in the new 410 seat theatre was
              "Tiger at the Gates" by Jean Giraudoux presented on 24 August 1956.  The new theatre was the first new live
              theatre built since the Comedy and remained that until the opening of the Arts Centre theatres and the many
              community theatres built since then - excluding multi purpose halls. The theatre was officially opened by the
              Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, Sir Edmund Herring. Funds for many of the seats were donated and dedicated
              to famous actors and theatrical figures including George Coppin, George Rignold, Bland and Florence Holt,
   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13