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Bring it on Chatswood: A New Theatre That Needs Nurture

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Concourse ExteriorThis week I attended a performance at the new Concourse theatre in Chatswood. What a magnificent new outer city theatre complex this is! There are two superb theatres, one seats approx 1,000 and is a concert hall, the other a two tiered 500 seat proscenium arch theatre.  I have yet to see the Concert Hall (which recently hosted a star studded opening concert), but saw an amateur production of The Boy from Oz in the smaller theatre. The theatre is beautifully equipped with excellent flying facilities which were well used by the company, allowing in many instances, for the production to look quite slick and professional. Chatswood is a suburb approx 20mins from central Sydney and the new centre, which takes up a whole block right in the centre of the busy shopping area, is a short walk to the train station and should be accessible to all audiences. Public transport is very easy to all areas serviced by trains, or to central Sydney by bus. There is also a car park underneath which seemed huge and wasn’t too expensive to park. 
Yet I have a problem, I love the whole concept of a large new theatre being built in the suburbs, now I want to see it work. There are some world class concert acts coming into the concert venue, but I would like to see a fully professional theatre company set up for the superb smaller theatre. From my experience, these venues built and financed by local councils, tend to have a hodge-podge of events that are often more community based than professional. Certainly there has to be time and space for some community events, but unless there are a strong selection of professional productions in the space, it will never be taken very seriously by the industry.
Concourse Bus RouteI have been raving about the venue to many colleagues and was surprised many were not even aware of its existence. Surely this is because there has been no major theatrical production staged there. I think it was a mistake for the first major event in the new theatre to be an amateur production. This sort of show just cant show this facility off to its best. At the night I saw Boy from Oz, the sound was severely below par. I am not sure if this was a one-off or the sound company employed did not have equipment to match the venue, but a new venue such as this must use state of the art equipment and this is often not the case with amateur theatre companies.
As I say, yes there must be some time in a community based theatre complex given over to community events, but if this exciting new venue wishes to succeed and be recognised by the profession as the superb performing space that it is, it needs to carefully balance and programme its events.  How wonderful it would be to see a professional company being allowed to programme seasons for six months of the year in that lovely 550 seat theatre. Sydney suburbs surely needs more of this and it would be a highly competitive company set up in a nearby area to the Ensemble theatre and Glenn St, and surely with the oft missed Marian Street Theatre now long gone, the Northern suburbs could do with more professional theatre. I also would love to see perhaps a series of professional concert versions of musicals staged in that 1,000 seat concert hall. It’s one thing to have venues like this, it’s another to manage and programme them properly.
Bring it on, Chatswood !!

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Les has written 59 articles on AussieTheatre
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