National Theatre

20 Carlisle Street,
Melbourne, VIC 3182

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RKLT on April 30, 2006 at 7:08 pm

The Australian National Theatre Movement was established in 1935 and toured nationally with opera, ballet & drama until 1954 when the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust (AETT) was formed- the National Movement as a private company could not compete with the government-supported AETT and gradually would back its production department, finishing with the Melbourne Opera season in 1971. Hence the “national” name for a company now based in Melbourne only.
The streetscape of the building is classical with rotunda and columns to solve the dilemma of a corner site. Given the building was constructed in 1920/21 and refurbished in 1928 many of its features – including the wonderful first floor chandelier in the Foyer – are clearly art deco. Its a very interesting mix.
The capacity of the Victory Theatre in 1920/21 was actually 3,000 – it was reduced to 2,550 in the 1928 refurbishment as seats were widened to go for the top end of the marketplace (The Palais Theatre and Regent Theatre both opened in 1928 as competition). In 1971 the National Theatre Movement bought the Victory and renamed it as The National Theatre. The stalls were removed and divided into studios for the schools of drama and ballet. The new live theatre (pros arch with fly tower) was added to the front of the old dress circle and the capacity reduced to 800. Subsequently provision for followspots reduced the capacity to the current 783.
Frank van Straten (National Treasure 1994) has written an excellent book on the company, while the building is covered in both “Picture Palaces and Flea Pits” (1983) by Simon Brand, and “Cinemas of Australia via USA” by Ross Thorne (1981)

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Please note the English spelling!

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 4, 2005 at 2:29 pm

The original seating capacity of the Victory Theatre was 2,500.

KevinAdams on May 7, 2004 at 4:44 am

The organisation may be called the AUSTRALIAN National Theatre, but the BUILDING is simply called “The NATIONAL Theatre” -even by the organisation that runs it. I would call it more “classic” than “art-deco” too!
(Being pedantic for history’s sake)..