Born to Be Fringe: New-Old Theatre Space in Sydney

27/08/2009 at 10:46 am Leave a comment

Dropping in last night for the launch of the Imagine Festival and free wine, I was rather pleased to discover the Cleveland St Theatre hasn’t lost any of its character or charm.

It’s certainly had a variety of uses, with a history going back to days as a ‘dance hall’ for the rail workers, apparently it’s also seen nights as an illegal casino since being set up as the ad-hoc exhibition centre for performance artist Mike Mullins way back when. Not sure what went on at those events, but I seem to recall dropping in there one fateful Saturday night in the mid 90’s for some late-night doof with the Vibe Tribe. One starts to wonder if there is anything that hasn’t happened in there?

Laying empty since the good people at The Performance Space outgrew it and took up digs in Carriageworks a couple of years back, it has more recently been taken over by the Actor’s College of Theatre & Television.  As you enter it has the feel of a working rehearsal studio, with current students lounging about in the courtyard like they own the place (as they should be), and a quiet sense of buzz, like there’s always something creative happening in one of the nooks and crannys the building offers.  Of course, there probably is – there are rehearsal rooms available for hire, as well as the main hall itself and a Final Cut Pro edit suite… not to mention the college itself!  Taking up the mantle seems quite natural for ACTT – albeit unexpected, when their small rehearsal Space at St Barnabas’ burned down along with the rest of the church – this quite large, versatile building sort of fell into place for them.

So the next chapter is begun, with the inaugural Imagine Festival just weeks away, a low-key launch lead by the always charming Lex Marinos & a barefoot Lesley Watson (ACTT college founder) had a truly Bohemian edge suited to the scope – Imagine- where anything is possible.  The festival heralded over 80 submissions from artists (including yours truly) wanting to showcase their skills in theatre, circus, beatboxing or you name it – opening up a new space seems like exactly the breath of fresh air the stifled Sydney theatre scene is desperate for.

Watch this space indeed…
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