What’s behind Tabard’s stage?
From the road Napier’s Tabard Theatre looks still and closed most days, with no movement or sound.
But inside its golden set of wooden doors is a hive of activity, with sets being built, costumes sewn, dance moves perfected and lines learnt.
Lesley Carthew is a life member, treasurer and former president of the Napier Operatic Society which calls the complex home.
‘‘This place is never still,’’ she said.
Completed in 1994, the theatre complex on Coronation Street in Ahuriri, was crafted by a team of retired men.
The front two rooms are the ones most commonly visited by the public, with a theatre large enough to accommodate 175 in rowed seating or 126 for dinner theatre at tables.
Across the hallway is the centre’s costume hire store bulging with a range of outfits; these are only a portion of the society’s costumes.
Behind these areas is a commercial kitchen able to cater for126 people during dinner service.
At the back of the complex is a large rehearsal room with a special sprung wooden floor for dancing, marked out with tape for each production.
Along one side is an extra wall of costumes.
The second storey houses a green room, office and dressing rooms. Outside is a courtyard and to the left of the theatre is a converted building which houses a workshop for building sets and a sewing room for creating and fitting costumes.
Carthew had previously been involved with musical theatre when she was younger but joined the Napier group as a parent.
‘‘I became a member during the 80s,’’ she said. ‘‘My daughter was in Annie the first time they did it. I came down to help with costumes and never left.’’
But the society has a far longer history.
It was established in 1887 after three musical and dance societies joined, with Trial by Jury the first production.
Shows were suspended during the two World Wars and following the 1931 Napier earthquake.
Carthew said her favourite musicals over the years were Les Miserables, followed by Miss Saigon in a close second, then Chess because of the musical challenges this held.
She said it was the music which first drew her to the theatre.
‘‘It’s the type of music I just absolutely adore, but it’s the people you meet and friends I’ve made who keep me here.’’
Lesley Carthew outside the Tabard Theatre costume hire store.