Tuesday 21 November 2017
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Theatre Royal Annual Report 2016 - Consideration and Noting

Mr FINCH  (Rosevears) - Mr President, I move -

That the Theatre Royal Annual Report 2016 be considered and noted.

The oldest continuously operating theatre in Australia, the Theatre Royal opened in 1837.  Noel Coward called it a 'dream of a theatre'.  Sir Laurence Olivier launched a national appeal for its reconstruction in the 1940s.

The Theatre Royal was built in what was then a rather seedy area of Hobart, but not now especially with the development of the University of Tasmania's multipurpose performing arts and education centre next door, in which the Theatre Royal will, and appropriately, be closely involved.

Mr Valentine - It is in a great electorate.

Mr FINCH - Absolutely, yes.  You must be so proud, and as the chair of built heritage, it would resonate every time you drive past.

I want to start with the vision statement at the beginning of the theatre's 2016 annual report -
As a vibrant contemporary centre, the Theatre Royal is a heritage icon and cultural leader inspiring Tasmanians and visitors by engaging them in diverse world class performing arts.
The headline shows contribute to the Tasmanian economy, with strategic priorities contributing to the Tasmanian economic, cultural life and health.  Strategic priorities include -

•   Grow a simulating and appealing program.  To develop the range, quality and quantity of the performing arts program.

•   Develop the contemporary centre for performing arts.  To manage the theatre's assets and facilities, including the new space being developed by the University of Tasmania.

•   Engage with the community.  To strengthen the Theatre Royal's engagement with the community.

•   Manage the business.  To build the organisation's technical, managerial, service and governance capabilities.

The chairman of the theatre's management board, Craig Stephens, says in his 2016 report that although 2016 was considered a successful season, the financial result was negatively impacted by lower than expected attendances at some key productions and other factors, including the costs associated with the adjoining UTAS development and costs in determining the noise impacts of the proposed Royal Hobart Hospital helipad, contributed to the deficit for the season.  However, Mr Stephens is optimistic about the current 2017 season and the board expects a surplus.  Mr Stephens writes of the resources that will need to be directed to the UTAS project from the Theatre Royal's small management team and the work involved in completing the final agreements for the project, which is due to open in 2019.

Now to the report of the chief executive, Tim Munro, which notes the 341 events attracted more than 56 000 patrons during 2016, a big program.  The Theatre Royal has long been noted for its Shakespearean productions and many former Tasmanian schools students remember their first experience of live productions there.  If anything, the theatre's Shakespearean role is strengthening with Bell Shakespeare's Othello attracting 1951 patrons, more than for Hamlet in 2015.
Talking about early experiences, I remember my own there when going to see the Gang Show.  Is that still at the Theatre Royal?

Members - No.

Mr FINCH - Years ago, when I was a mere lad, my first party routine came from my experience at the Gang Show.  Relax, Mr President - I will not go into that party routine.  However, it was such good fun to be in that wonderful theatre, upstairs looking down and seeing young Tasmanians having such a great time with the Gang Show - a wonderful venue and good experiences for people.
Mrs Hiscutt - I wonder whether the honourable member might go through his party show later?

Mr FINCH - We might do it at the Christmas party.  That should get us thrown out of the Ball and Chain.  It is a deal. 

Mrs Hiscutt - Thank you.

Mr FINCH - Back to Mr Munro.  He writes of the new facilities that will be available to the Theatre Royal when the UTAS Hedberg development is completed in 2019.  These include new foyers, related patron amenities and a new 300-seat studio theatre which will replace the Backspace Theatre.
I mentioned community engagement in listing the theatre's strategic priorities.  It is gratifying to note the extent of this.  Workshop and community events include a range of engagement and training opportunities for Tasmanian theatregoers, for students, for performers and for theatre makers. 

In 2016, community and performer development activities were held in conjunction with the Bell Shakespeare Company, Opera Australia, Patch Theatre Company and shake & stir theatre co.  It is continuing that long-term plan of that community engagement and the strengthening of the same. 

The Friends of the Theatre Royal conducted 115 public tours of the theatre and further tours and discussion sessions were run for education and community groups by the Theatre Royal operations team. 

I am not going to go into the financial statements.  Members can view them for themselves.  I note the current assets of $2393.116 million; that was the figure in 2016 compared with $2209.029 million.  You would expect that steady increase.

The numbers seem fine but what is gratifying is the continuous strengthening of the historic Theatre Royal's role in our community.  The Theatre Royal is important for Tasmania's image as a small concentrated centre for the arts, and it meshes with that international recognition of MONA and the other attractions people enjoy when they come here for theatrical and artistic experiences.  It fits perfectly well with the way Hobart is viewed from afar with its historic heritage.  I repeat, member for Hobart, its historic heritage.

Mr Valentine - Yes.

Mr FINCH - What is needed is more government support.  I suppose that is always the way for facilities like the Theatre Royal.  I could juxtapose that with the foolish loss of the potential of Hobart as the venue for the annual Baroque music festival.  Brisbane may want the Theatre Royal also, but they cannot have it.  Let us continue to develop the Theatre Royal to its full potential.

I ask members to support the noting of this motion.
[11.56 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I thank members who have spoken to the motion.  The member for Hobart mentioned his connection with the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society.  When president of the Launceston Repertory Society, I directed a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - you might realise the perfect typecast character is the current Deputy Lord Mayor of Hobart, Ron Christie.  Thank goodness it was his only theatrical performance, and he now saves all his performances for the Hobart City Council.

Theatre is great fun, whether amateur or professional.  The Theatre Royal longevity since 1837 provides that spirit of community.  Theatre can bring this to people's lives.  I wish the team at the Theatre Royal all the best as they move into this new and exciting operation with The Hedberg.  Moving to this new operation might be daunting - how do we keep a connection with the Theatre Royal to this new development and develop together?  They are challenges that will be faced after 2019 and in coming years.  It will be a vibrant and stimulating environment in which to work, for developing artists to function and audiences to be entertained and stimulated by what goes on in the precinct.  I trust members will support the noting of this motion for the Theatre Royal.

Motion agreed to.