Theatre takes the soft option

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THE Playhouse theatre will raise the curtain on a fresh new look this month, as part of a $3.109m upgrade by the ACT Government.

The 16-year-old theatre has ripped out and replaced its 622 “deteriorating, worn out” seats, which had been at the theatre since its opening in 1998, with plush new seats across all three levels.

The seats, which are a slightly darker shade of green, have wooden backs and inbuilt vents for air-conditioning, while selected seats have adjustable arm-rests for wheelchair access.

Canberra Theatre Centre director Bruce Carmichael says the new seats are a “big investment” for Canberra’s cultural assets.

“The cushioning is thicker so they’re more comfortable for people visiting, and will hopefully encourage them to return,” Bruce says.

“When we first built the theatre in the 1990s, it was for only $9m and that meant other costs got trimmed, including what we could spend on seats. The base of the old seats were starting to really wear out and they had a steel frame, so everybody ended up getting cut with the frame digging into the back of the thigh.”

The theatre recycled about 80 of its old seats, donating them to a local church, while “whatever possible” will be recycled, including scrap metal.

Contractors are still working on the finishing touches to what has been a two week-long overhaul, with the new-look theatre to be ready for its first production later this month.

Bruce says the seats will breathe new life into The Playhouse, which he believes is one of the “most loved” theatres for actors.

“Particularly actors in a drama production love it because of the acoustics, the small size and the way they can feel like they’re very close to the audience… a lot of companies come back year after year for that reason,” he says.

The upgrade also included new air conditioning for the Canberra Theatre and “general maintenance,” according to a Canberra Theatre Centre spokesperson.

Main photo: Canberra Theatre Centre director Bruce Carmichael. Photography: Gary Schafer

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