Thebarton Theatre History

The Thebarton Theatre was officially opened on Monday June 11 1928 by Mayor HS Hatwell Esq and at the time was considered the premier venue for concerts, films and theatre performances. Known as the Thebarton Town Hall and Municipal offices the building was built by the Thebarton Council at a cost of £30,000. The opening was a grand occasion with residents satisfied that this was a truly modern building with modern conveniences. It was in fact elaborate and luxurious featuring seating for 2,000 people, a large stage, beautiful proscenium arch and indirect lighting. The theatrical lighting installed in the theatre was regarded as an innovation with "all the colours of the rainbow thrown forth through the protruding cone and rosette ceiling." The hall was fitted with 2,000 lights, with only around 200 visible the remainder used for dissolving and dimming effects. As well as the state of the art lighting there was a full orchestra and a variety of seating arrangements and rooms for use. A large Assembly Room was used for functions and dancing, the administrative building included offices and the Council Chambers as well as the Mayors and Mayoresses rooms. Another room was set aside for the School for Mothers, a precursor to the Mothers and Babies Health Association. The Dress Circle provided spacious seating with the front section boasting luxurious armchairs with room for two people. Ten boxes to the side of the Stalls were also fitted with armchairs to create Balcony seationg on each side of the auditorium. Seating in the stalls was also designed for comfort with specially constructed chairs finished in gold leather.

Recent History

In 1981 Weslo Holdings Pty. Ltd took over the lease of the Thebarton Town Hall and renamed it Thebarton Theatre. The building had deteriorated significantly in the latter years of the Council's management and Weslo Holdings had to spend more than $1million on redeveloping the theatre. It was fitted out with new foyers, toilets, electrics, carpets, seating, administration areas, bars, and confectionary and merchandise areas. The developers were instructed to perfectly blend the new work with the old and have done brilliantly with the redevelopment winning praise from historical theatre societies and buffs world wide. “There is not to be any way that you can see where the old work (plaster, woodwork etc) finishes and the new starts”…were the absolute directions given to the architects and builders. The work carried out by Weslo has won plaudits from historical theatre societies and buffs world wide for its heritage-sensitive treatment. Weslo Holdings Pty Ltd is very proud of the fact that, except for the initial loan of $350,000 taken out by the council (the interest on which (and some) was paid by Weslo Holdings Pty Ltd), all other development (over $1.0 million worth) has been undertaken and paid for by the company. Further upgrades including the beautiful old interior will be undertaken in the near future. Following the redevelopment the Thebbie renewed its position as a favourite place for entertainment in Adelaide, particularly on the contemporary music scene. The size and flexibility of the theatre makes it easily suited to a wide variety of events from children's concerts to alterative rock and dance acts and even sporting events such as wrestling and kickboxing tournaments. The medium sized venue now seats 2000 people and is perfect for young bands breaking into the concert circuit and more established bands that prefer the intimacy of the Thebbie to huge and impersonal stadiums. Alternative bands love the theatre where they can perform right in the midst of the energy and excitement of their fans. It can be transformed though a number of seating arrangements from a 700 seat lyric mode suited to more intimate performances to 'in the round' seating for sporting events. The theatre can also be used for lounge/balcony section only seating perfect for events such as The Dance Theatre of Pina Bausch. The Thebarton Theatre is licensed, has kitchen facilities and a number of breakout areas which can be used for conferences and seminars. The old Council Chambers, lounge and offices have not been forgotten and are also available for hire. They can be used for corporate entertainment, breakout areas, private functions and other events. The Thebarton Theatre is a popular and versatile historic treasure situated just ten minutes from the city centre.

Showcase 1 - Original announcement in The Advertiser


The Advertiser Tuesday 12 July 1928

The opening ceremony in connection with the new Town Hall at Thebarton was performed by the Mayor (Mr.H.S.Hatwell) on Monday night, in the presence of a large gathering, which included members of the present and past councils. The Town Hall faces Henley Beach road, and the municipal offices have a frontage to Taylor's road. "The buildings have already been fully described in The Advertiser."

The Mayor said his mind went back 20 years ago, when he first entered the town of Thebarton. Its growth has been remarkable, especially during the last ten years. Thebarton was incorporated in 1883. In 1914 the population was 10,000 and was now nearing 18,000. They hoped in the near future to become a city. The capital value of the property with in the area was approximately 2 ¾ million pounds. From 1883 until now, 19 men had occupied mayoral chair.Many valuable works had been carried out during recent years; among them were the oval with its appointments, the Technical School, fine public school buildings, Savings Bank church building, and the Bakewell Bridge. It is over 12 years since he entered the council, and in making his maiden speech advocated either addition to the old town Hall, or ,if possible a new one. One difficulty was always in the way, namely money. Plans specification were drawn up, and estimates given, but nothing was done at that time. Some time ago the land facing Henley Beach-road was secured, and to Alderman Leal he must pay a tribute, for it was though his interest in town matters and forethought that they were able to secure this land. (Applause). The council then acquired 80 feet facing Taylor's- road from the Thebarton Institute.

The next problem was finance, and the difficulties were solved 18 months ago, when a proposition was placed before the council which enabled it to go ahead and carry out their ambitions and have a new town hall, municipal offices, Council Chamber, and mayor's parlor worthy of the town. A poll was demanded, and although the opposition worked hard the project was accepted by a two to one majority. The architects of the building were Messrs. Kaberry & Chard, of Sydney, with Mr E. F. Choate as supervisor, A special committee was appointed consisting of Alderman Leal. Alderman Watson, Councilor Langdon, Councilor Isley, the town clerk and himself. The contractors, Messrs.Colegate and Son, had done their work well. (Applause). With respect to the financial aspect, he could assure the ratepayers that there would be no need to increase the rates to meet either the capital expenditure or the yearly payments of principal and interest, as it was confidently felt that the revenue would be sufficient to meet all expenses, including the repayments of principal. The council felt it was giving the ratepayers a very fine business proposition and a building that was a credit to the town. Arrangements had been made to pay for the buildings over a term of 30 years,and at the end of that period the town would possess a fine asset, which would provide a substantial amount each year which could be s pent on roads and footpaths.

Mr. Hatwell paid a special tribute to all who had assisted in the project, and had brought to a successful issue the goal of their ambition. Alderman M. Watson proposed a vote of thanks to the mayor, which was carried by acclamation.

At the conclusion of the opening ceremony the large audience were entertained by Mr. R. G. Shorthose and a number of his puils. Who gave a gymnastic display, and Mr. B. Davies rendered, and the beautiful lighting effects were greatly admired.

Supper was provided in the large supperroom ,at which the guests included the mayors and mayoresses of Port Adelaide, St Peters, Hindmash, Unley, Glenalg, Henley and Grange, Brighton, and the chairman of the West Torrens District Council. The following toasts were honored - "The Corporation of Thebarton ," submitted by Mr. T. Green, and acknowledged by Mr. Hatwell; "Clifford Theatres," proposed by Alderman Leal, and responded to by Mr. Clifford.