Theatre plans showcase rennovations

WELCOMED PLAN: Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre manager Frank Morello welcomes the new master plan for the facility.

Charlotte Varcoe

A PROPOSAL for an estimated $35m makeover at the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre has been unveiled in an attempt to further enhance the art community.

The mammoth project will give the 40-year old structure a facelift as well as a new entrance planned to be installed at Ferrers Street.

Inspired by a multitude of discussions with the local arts community, the plans highlight a number of significant additions to the theatre including a community make space for workshops, a music studio and a smaller, separate flexible performance space.

The front entrance along the Cave Gardens will remain but is expected to include a new airlock entrance and glazing under the current canopy, increasing the size of the current foyer.

Theatre manager Frank Morello said the planning for the new facility had been in the making for over two-years, with the Covid-19 pandemic putting a pause on the works.

Mr Morello said despite the minor setback, the current plans were exciting for the broader arts community and residents within Mount Gambier.

“This is all about creating a space for local artists to create regional stories that reflect this area and resonate more widely,” Mr Morello said.

“There are not many spaces throughout the region which allows the creative community to create works of visual art and network which is exactly what we were told is needed.

“With a combination of work and consultation, we were then able to provide this plan.”

He said following the difficulties the arts community had experienced throughout the pandemic, the new plans would hopefully push those struggling forward in their careers.

“If we can redevelop the theatre to today’s standards in regards to aesthetics and access it will certainly enhance and further support the industry,” he said.

“There will be a number of exciting elements but the main aspect of the design is the new entrance planned for Ferrers Street which will also have entrance landscapes, a forecourt and outdoor breakout terrace leading through to the community making space.

“This making space will be fantastic for artists across the board and we heard the callout for it loud and clear during our consultation process with many visual artists wanting an area they are able to use for things such as pottery and other visual art models.”

He said the proposed music studio would also provide a fantastic opportunity for local musicians with a continuing growth in aspiring young musicians and established musicians who continue to write original songs.

“Having a space like this for musicians will allow them to make and record music and is a wonderful addition for Mount Gambier,” Mr Morello said.

“We will also be joining the Varcoe building to the theatre making it under the one roof which will then further assist with our backstage usage and provide more residential space.

“International, national and local artists will be able to come and work directly within the building where they can create their work which is a fantastic initiative.”

He said the more comfortable and inviting proposal was expected to go before all tiers of government where investment discussions will begin.