Oh, if this stage could talk
The birthplace of theatre in Bundaberg turns 50 this year and shows no sign of a curtain call any time soon. After half a century, the Playhouse Theatre has hosted many a performance and seated thousands of stage enthusiasts. Sherry Barnes reflects on her time with the popular venue with memories of people, plays and a passion for the arts.
“MAY God bless all who work and play within”, said Agnes Baker MBE, the patroness of Bundaberg Players, as she cut the ribbon on the stage curtain before the opening night performance of The Miser on
April 29, 1968.
Moliere’s 17th Century French comedy of manners directed by Helen Cattermull was the first production ever performed onstage at the Playhouse Theatre in Steffensen Street.
The Miser will again be presented 50 years later in August, as part of the Players’ 2018 season.
Previously performing at local venues including the Parish Hall in Woongarra Street, and old Wintergarden Theatre (the former Blockbuster site) Players realised if progress was to be made, a theatre solely for their use was a must and construction began in 1964 of club rooms in Steffensen Street, and later a stage and auditorium seating 175 facing west.
The next major construction opening in 1976 with The Bastard Country, consisted of the present tiered auditorium seating 254 with audience facing east.
In his glowing theatre review, then NewsMail Editor Ron Harvey echoed Agnes Baker’s words, describing the pre-theatre Wine and Cheese party’s “pleasant intimate nature of the scene in the new premises which represent Bundaberg’s own Little Theatre.”
Mr Harvey, a passionate supporter of the arts, never missed an opening night, rushing straight back to the NewsMail office to write his review which always appeared in the very next morning’s edition.
He kept every program, complete with his notes jotted in the margins; his collection now carefully stored away, along with my distant memories of playing Mariane in The Miser.
Acting opposite my high-school French and English teacher, Jeff Shepherd who played “the miser” was a little daunting at first, but my first role with the Players was an incredible opportunity I grasped eagerly – I think he was a bit surprised though.
On reflection I was probably a bit young for the part, having gone to auditions mainly to observe – but there was no Youth Theatre in those days so I was in seventh heaven on the Players stage – I still am.
I was also fortunate to act alongside the brilliantly talented Pat Faircloth and Ian Rehbein, both of whom still live in Bundaberg and are sure to be in the audience at The Miser this year.
May God bless all those who work and play within.
— Agnes Baker, 1968
LET’S BUILD A THEATRE: Signing the Playhouse Theatre contract are president Gordon Dick (back left), artistic director Helen Cattermull, treasurer Ron Halpin along with committee member Bill Millar (front left), builder Joe Gaffney, committee member John Faircloth and vice-president Skip Cattermull.
Sherry Barnes as Mariane in The Miser in 1968