Theatre's Birthday Takes Centre Stage the Rep Takes a Curtain Call after 80 Years of High Drama

Article excerpt

Bev Irwin admires the historical display of some of the performances conducted at the Toowoomba Repertory Theatre.

BIGREAD

with Doug Parrington

doug.parrington

@thechronicle.com.au

THERE are many acts yet to be played out by the old Rep, as she is fondly known.

She has been broke, has flourished, become destitute again and then regained her strength even when television and other home entertainment threatened to keep her out in the cold.

Better known as the Toowoomba Repertory Theatre, the Rep has become a grand old lady in Queensland, being established 80 years ago this month. Only Brisbane Repertory, now La Boite, is older . . . by five years.

This afternoon, to mark Toowoomba Repertory's octogenarian status, her past and present actors, committee members, stage hands, directors, producers, volunteers a[pounds sterling] in fact anyone who has loved her through good times and in bad a[pounds sterling] will turn out to pay homage.

An 80th birthday cake, suitable for a grand dame, will be cut at Toowoomba Repertory's home at 94 Margaret Street between 2pm and 4.30pm.

Under the pressed metal ceilings of the suburban house that expanded to become a cosy theatre, memories will be revived of the actors and directors who went on to greater feats, of staunch loyalists who have stuck by the theatre for decades and the marvellous amateur performances that have occurred there since 1930.

The Rep was the cradle for some remarkable talents a[pounds sterling] Terry Brady who went on to NIDA and then on to London as an actor and director, Shane Withington, who played in Twelfth Night at the Rep and went on to Australian fame in movies, television and stage, nationally-acclaimed actor Rick Ireland who plays the lead in the current Rep production of The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and Judy Morris, well known for her role in the television hit Mother and Son.

The Rep's committee always has been peppered with people who have trod the boards or have had an enduring love affair with theatre. Some, such as the late John Buckland and the late Roy Massey, devoted a good part of their lives to the Rep in every possible role attached to theatre activities.

John was an actor, director, committee member and set up the youth theatre and Roy likewise was an actor, director, committee president and tireless worker for the cause.

A measure of the dedication some people have applied to the old Rep can be found in the service of Dorothy Row (for decades in production and committee work) and Gwen and Harry Hart, who also were great supporters of every facet of the theatre's activities.

Many of the Rep's old stagers have been high profile while an equal number of others were content to just help out behind the scenes whenever they could.

One of the most famous Rep loyalists was the late and well-loved Toowoomba mayor, committee president, actress and producer, Nell Robinson.

Nell was part of Toowoomba Repertory from its very beginnings and had a role in the 1932 production of a[approximately]High Road'. She never tired of the great acting institution or its people.

She wrote the following lines about the Rep on the day before the reopening of the theatre at its present site on August 1, 1964: "Through the door of the theatre should be the way of escape from reality; the door of the theatre should be the door to the home of imagination, which players and audiences may share. A safe world of imagination and laughter."

Nell's image as an accomplished actress and producer are among many fascinating historic posters, photographs, cast lists and reviews mounted under glass in the foyer of the Repertory Theatre in Margaret Street to mark the institution's 80th birthday. The display was put together by Bev Irwin, herself an actress and stalwart of the theatre.

As has happened throughout the Rep's history, a handful of loyal workers is at its core and has been for decades. …