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End of an era for theatre

The cast of Greytown Little Theatre’s production of The Lion in Winter. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Emily Ireland

After being put up for sale earlier this year, the home of Greytown Little Theatre is now under contract, signalling the end of an era for the theatre company.

The decision to sell the building and land at 68 Main St was made based on a poor seismic report which revealed the site was rated at only 15 per cent of the building code.

Earthquake-Risk buildings are those assessed at below 67 per cent of the code and an Earthquake-Prone building is one below 33 per cent.

Greytown Little Theatre chairman John Gilberthorpe said although leaving the site would be bittersweet, Greytown Little Theatre was much more than the building itself, even though it had been their home since 1996.

When the building was first bought, it was adapted for purpose, but it wasn’t done as well as could be expected,” John said.

“The limitations are the stage area, there’s little room on the stage itself, and the facilities are not very adequate.

What the theatre company really needed was a flexible space like a black box theatre with good dressing rooms and a comfortable green room, he said.

When the group learned the building was earthquake prone, they identified a few options for the future, including strengthening the existing building, demolishing it and starting over, or selling the site and using the funds from the sale to create a new space on council-owned land on West St.

It was this last option that proved the best.

“The current building is under contract and we’ll have confirmation of that at the end of July,” John said.

“They’re only interested in the land, not the building.”

He said the sale of the building was “not bittersweet from the building’s point of view, but it is bittersweet from the memories associated with the building”.

The last production in the Greytown Little Theatre building will be The Lion in Winter, directed by Lynn Bushell.

Lynn, who has directed more than 40 shows, said it was a privilege to be asked to direct the final show in the venue.

“I am fully aware this is a production that will go down in the history of the club as the final production in this venue.

“I really do appreciate being given the opportunity to direct that.”

She said the company had given her “just about free rein” with the production, including being able to paint the building walls and stage floor to set the scene, as well as the set itself.

The Lion in Winter is a play depicting the personal and political conflicts of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their children and their guests during Christmas 1183.

“It was open slather when the King went – unless he had already named his successor.

“Eleanor favours Richard who went on to become Richard the Lionheart, and Henry favours John who went on to become King John I,” Lynn said.

“There’s backstabbing, treachery and betrayal of not only those two but Philip II of France and the boys themselves as they all jockey and change sides.

“If you think there are dysfunctional families on Coronation Street, go have a look at this.”

There are five young actors – under the age of 22 – in the play, and Lynn said they brought a lot of energy to the roles and were “eager to learn from the more senior actors”.

The Lion in Winter will be shown at Greytown Little Theatre from June 20-22, at 7.30pm, then at 2pm on June 23-24, and at 7.30pm from June 27-30.

Tickets are $20 for adults, and $10 for students and can be purchased from The Greytown Hotel, 06 304 9138.

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