Billions For Stadiums, But What About Our Theatres?

While the plans to overhaul two of Sydney’s major sporting arenas work their way through the NSW Government, there’s another industry waving their hand for help. It’s the theatre industry, and they desperately want a new venue for Sydney’s CBD.

Dramatic sound effect.

In response, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Arts Minister Don Harwin announced plans for a new 1500-seat “Broadway-style lyric theatre” in Ultimo following the relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta.

A separate fact sheet by the NSW Government adds on to the plans, saying the theatre would provide a “state-of-the-art performance space for musicals, live music and screen-based programming”.

However, a Final Business Case Summary released by the government body Infrastructure NSW in April 2018 notes that it is “separately considering” the options for the Ultimo site, contradicting the as-noted plans.

“Further work is being undertaken to complete a Final Business Case for Ultimo,” the document reads, “which will enable financial investment decisions about that site to be taken by Government.

“A separate summary document for Ultimo will be released once that work is complete.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Arts Minister Don Harwin have been asked for comment on their plans, but no response has yet been received.

Actor on stage in a theatre. Image: metamorworks [shutterstock]

Evelyn Richardson, the chief executive of the peak industry body Live Performance Australia (LPA), has welcomed the plan for a new theatre in Ultimo, “but it’ll be another three years before we see that functioning.”

“We have been raising this issue with the government since 2011,” Ms Richardson said. “There’s been a gap in that market for some years.”

“Sydney is a vital part of a national touring schedule, particularly for international productions. If a show can’t be booked into Sydney, that can affect the touring prospects for other Australian cities.”

According to Evelyn, productions that want to tour Australia may reconsider their options if they can get a booking in Melbourne but not in Sydney.

Regent Theatre in Melbourne CBD. Image: TK Kurikawa [shutterstock]

But as well as wanting a new theatre, Evelyn and the LPA also want to resolve the future of the shuttered Theatre Royal, which has sat dormant under the MLC building for more than two years.

“The loss of the Theatre Royal has materially impacted the opportunity for Sydney to host major productions, depriving local performers and industry workers of jobs, limiting choice for audiences, and short-changing the visitor economy through lost visitation and economic activity generated by live performance,” Ms Richardson said.

“The NSW Government cannot idly stand by and allow the demolition or downgrading of existing infrastructure.”

Ms Richardson said she’d like confirmation from the City of Sydney and the NSW government to save the Theatre Royal and to strengthen their priorities for a new theatre.

In response, City of Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore has outlined her support for more vibrant cultural infrastructure.

“I welcome Live Performance Australia’s advocacy to the NSW Government – calling for an increased investment in cultural infrastructure, which includes the future of the Theatre Royal in the CBD,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“In line with our Cultural Strategy, the City of Sydney’s aim is to support the theatre sector across our local government area as a whole – advocating for its support in major development in relevant NSW Government policies.”

“Each year, we invest $35.6 million in our cultural and creative life, guided by the ‘Creative City’ action plan adopted in 2014 after extensive consultation and research.”

The Lord Mayor said the City of Sydney is committed to working with commercial or cultural groups who wish to open new – or preserve existing – cultural facilities.