Phoenix Theatre to honour theatre great

KEEPING THE LEGACY ALIVE: Phoenix Theatre director Steen says they need bigger audiences so they can keep producing locally written plays, like Pierrot De Fleur showing now. Picture: Sylvia Liber

KEEPING THE LEGACY ALIVE: Phoenix Theatre director Steen says they need bigger audiences so they can keep producing locally written plays, like Pierrot De Fleur showing now. Picture: Sylvia Liber

A pioneer of Wollongong’s theatre scene is to be remembered as the Phoenix Theatre in Coniston freshens up for their 2017 season.

Director Steen told the Illawarra Mercury the company is in the process of reverting the name of the building back to its original in honour of the late Des Davis who passed away in May this year.

Davis founded Theatre South, Wollongong’s first professional theatre company, in 1980 with his actor wife Faye Montgomery.

They moved into the Coniston Community Hall in 1985 and renamed their new theatre The Bridge.

Steen said he wanted to ensure the legacy Davis setup remained.

“So it’s The Bridge Street theatre and other companies can come in and use it,” he said.

“In house shows will be done as the Phoenix Theatre at The Bridge Street theatre, and we keep that same level of excellence and local writing and local storytelling.”

After the passing of Davis, Merrigong Theatre’s artistic director Simon Hinton told the Mercury the foundations of Merrigong were built on the mindset of Theatre South.

"Des’s contribution over so many years, he really pioneered regional theatre producing in the area,” Hinton said.

The change will go ahead once sale documents are finalised by Wollongong City Council who sold the building to the theatre company for $1.

Similarly, Theatre South rented the space from council for $1.

Steen said he knows the sale caused a lot of “disharmony” in the theatre community, but the company just wants to carry on creating productions created by Illawarra playwrights for the Illawarra.

[So] we keep that same level of excellence and local writing and local storytelling. - Steen

Hesaid the change signals a shift in direction for the Phoenix, which will see more shows that are low cost but have the potential to bring in big audiences.

Now they are responsible for the upkeep of the building they will also be expanding their services to help accommodate the ongoing costs, such as costume hire.

“It’s going to be really busy and we don’t have much money,” Steen said.

Mixed in with quirky creative pieces will be reworked classics like The Importance of Being Earnest done as a tea party and an adaption of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

“Plus a few other things we’re going to take to fringe festivals around the country, we’re going to export a lot,” he said.

“Every single piece this year has been locally written and we’re really proud of that.”

Pierrot De Fleur is the latest locally written musical at the theatre, using comical lines and French cabaret songs.

It runs until Saturday September 24.

www.phoenixtheatre.net.au 

The cast of Pierrot De Fleur. Picture: Supplied

The cast of Pierrot De Fleur. Picture: Supplied

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