Tag Archives: architecture

Doggy Doors, Surry Hills…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

If you are looking for a way to torture your teenager that’s perfectly legal, take them on a doorscursion. It has a similar effect to trying to go for a run with a dog who has to stop and sniff every lamp post and everything in between. Indeed, I was given quite a lecture on the way home about how much quicker we would’ve been if we didn’t have to stop to take photos all the time. Of course, it was water off this photographer’s back. Until she’s old enough to get herself around, she’s stuck taking the slow road.

DSC_4353

As addition to photographing doors, I was spellbound by the Winter trees with their bare branches and crumpled leaves silhouetted against a pale blue sky. 

To be fair to the teenager, we were on the way to HER audition. However, we had allowed a few hours for cafe hopping and simply absorbing all that is Surry Hills. Besides, it’s not often they let me out and I was like a pig in mud unleashed with my camera soaking up the world through the lens. I love it and as I’ve said before, see so much better in  6 x 4.DSC_4360

Although I have some fabulous doors up sleeve, today I’m just sharing some photos of a few gorgeous pooches we spotted walking up Foveaux Street. Indeed, there were dogs everywhere we looked in Surry Hills and even many businesses had their resident pooch.

Anyway, I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catching up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Don’t mess with the dog in the featured image. If it doesn’t like you, it could well drop that heavy antique iron  in the background on your foot. 

 

 

Thursday Doors – Carriageworks, Sydney.

Welcome Back to Another Thursday Doors after quite a lengthy breather, while I grapple with the heavy research load which has seriously exceeded expectations on the book project.

DSC_3712

????????????????????????????????????

So, may I offer my humble apologies. Our visit to Carriageworks, Sydney is a bit overdue. I was there a few weeks ago for the Sydney Writers’ Festival and I took advantage of the trip to photograph a few doors and that’s what I was doing when a strange robotic voice started  chiming: “Evacuate” in a tone which sounded all too much like the Dalek’s “Exterminate”. That must’ve been a false alarm, but they evacuated the entire building, disrupting our sacred sessions and emptying about a thousand dazed and confused people onto the footpath. Apparently, there was one woman who refused to leave her session: “I’ve paid for this.” A lot of good that’s going to be when you’re dead…not that I’m catastrophising. When I’m told to get out, I get out. You can ask questions later.

Old Carriageworks

A Historic look at the Everleigh Carriage Workshops

Carriageworks started out as the Everleigh Carriage Workshops which were built  between 1880 and 1889. This was where train carriages for Sydney’s rail network were built and maintained, including the Royal Carriages constructed specifically for the Governor General of Australia and visiting Royalty, the first electric carriage, and the first air-conditioned train in Australia. From 1973 productivity at the site declined due to its inefficient older buildings, restrictive union practices and increased privatization of carriage construction and the site was closed in 1988.  In June 2002, the NSW Ministry for the Arts completed the purchase of the Carriage and Blacksmith Workshops at the Eveleigh Rail Yards site. Soon after, a construction project on the site commenced under the name of Carriageworks. Adaptive reuse of the workshop site began in 2003 with the housing of numerous contemporary arts practitioners, and Carriageworks was officially opened in 2007.

Everywhere you look you experience the building’s railway past. The buildings are massive and clearly big enough to park a few trains and there’s still track in situ just in case you had any doubts about the building’s past life. My husband’s a train nerd and our son was also smitten when he was young. So, we’ve been to quite a few railway sites over the years and caught a few steam trains as well. However, probably what struck me most was the sense of all those people who worked there over the years and an entire way of life which has moved on. I lived in the area in 1988 while I was at Sydney University and I do have a vague memory of hundreds, maybe a thousand workers spilling onto the streets. Or, perhaps I’m just making it up. Sometimes, when you wind back the clock, your recollections wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. That’s where you’re better off becoming a creative writer or yarn spinner than a historian or eye witness.

Door 3

This door had my immediate attention. What don’t they want us to see??

 

 

DSC_3749

This is what we writers aspire to…entry into the writers’ lounge. I actually made it inside once when my aunt presented a paper. 

My apologies because although the site itself was quite interesting, the doors weren’t weren’t the sort to set your heart racing and fill your head with rapturous poetry. However, the doors do form part of the overall structure which is intriguing and particularly appealing to anyone interested in industrial architecture.

DSC_3700

You have to be pretty short to peer through this keyhole. 

This is another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. While you might not have thought much about doors before, you’d be amazed at how they can launch a story and I really enjoy connecting with people from around the world and sharing where we live and where we’ve been.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Je suis Notre Dame…

“To know her, is to love her!”

The Beatles

Thank goodness, this isn’t a eulogy and has become more of an appreciation of our beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Indeed, these words are the outpourings of a heart which almost broke yesterday, as the blazing orange flames all but consumed her like a savage beast.  Yet, we’re not grieving her death, but are now grateful that she miraculously survived.

Like so many of us who have survived horrendous infernos of this magnitude, Notre Dame is still standing, yet all but destroyed.  I am a survivor myself and know that seemingly bottomless grief. Indeed, I have asked these very same questions myself…How did this happen? What has been lost? What is left? What can be done? I have also known that very same, fierce determination to get back on my feet and overcome like so many survivors. We will rebuild. Yet, it still hurts and the pain feels like it has no end. However, somehow you suddenly reach the other end of the rainbow and your ordeal seems like a bad dream, although the scars remain.

Personally, Notre Dame has never just been somewhere I went in Paris. Indeed, our connection has always been personal and it wasn’t just about the building either. No doubt, it’s the same for millions around the world and throughout history and we each have our own story to tell. Indeed, in a strange way and no doubt encouraged by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she’s almost come to life.  We can almost feel her pulse, her heartbeat and believe she knows and understands us in ways beyond human understanding. Indeed, as I watched those infernal flames blaze with such fury, I could hear her gasping for breath unable to discern whether she wanted to live or to die.

Of course, by now I was also walking through the streets of Paris crying and singing the words of the Hail Mary in solidarity with the people, although I didn’t know the words in French or in English. I didn’t need to. Notre Dame was in my heart. As Notre Dame burned, Paris might have been one of the largest cities in the world, but she was a village once again.

However, who was I kidding? I wasn’t out on the streets with the people of Paris. Rather, I was still stuck here on the other side of the world and couldn’t be there. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same sense of anguish you feel when a loved one is dying and you can’t get back. When you desperately want to hold their hand and say your “I love yous” and goodbyes and miss out. Yet, I still felt the need to vent. Respond. Do something.

So, I did what I could.

DSC_3307

Yesterday, on the way to the Art Gallery of NSW with my daughter, we detoured via Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral to pay our respects to the smouldering remains of Notre Dame and her extended global community. Indeed, I needed to pray and being there was the closest I could get to being near Notre Dame.

DSC_3339

Our daughter sitting on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday. Not quite the same effect as Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal but there’s promise. 

 

Back when my husband first told me the news, I jumped straight out of bed and switched on the TV expecting some kind of mistake. Yet, there she was right before my very eyes…a blazing, orange inferno. Brutal, cruel and almost evil, she was trapped in the flames with no way out. Yet, the valiant fire fighters of Paris, just like those of New York on 9/11, were there fighting to put out the flames and save her from eternal destruction.

Notre Dame! The name says it all, even for me as an Australian.

Scan10296

My backpack and I just before I left. 

On the 13th July, 1992 I arrived at Paris’s Gare du Nord with my backpack and I found my way to the Hotel Henri IV in Rue Saint Jacques only five minutes’ walk from Notre Dame. I stayed there with friends for a few weeks, exploring the city of light and romantic turmoil, while Notre Dame stood seemingly unmoved and her bells chimed.

Being immersed in all that history and architectural grandeur, was an incredible experience for a young Australian experiencing Europe for the first time. We had nothing like it. Unfortunately, the City of Love also turned out to be the City of Heartbreak and despair. Indeed, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that so many philosophers, writers and artists have gathered there. I definitely sensed a dark undercurrent to Paris, and perhaps in this context, Notre Dame needed to be the light.

Rowena Notre Dame

My parents met up with me in Paris and we not only went to Notre Dame, my father and I also had our portraits sketched out the front. While I don’t particularly remember the interior, I still remember going inside and experiencing the most incredible sense of peace…the peace which surpasses human understanding. I also remember feeling it was much cooler inside with a distinct temperature drop. Being July, it was boiling hot outside and perhaps it was a few degrees cooler inside the cathedral. I don’t know. However, this combined with the stained glass windows and subdued lighting did create an ambiance.

Yet, quite aside from that, I could really sense the comforting presence of God. Only a few weeks’ beforehand, my mother’s aunt had passed away. She and Mum were particularly close and brought closer still by Mum’s strict upbringing. So, although we’re not Catholic, we lit a candle for her. Lighting that wick, has always been special. However, it’s felt even sacred since the fire. It was such an incredibly poignant moment. I think we also lit a candle for Mum’s younger sister, Lyn, who’d suddenly been ripped away from us at 36 with double pneumonia. Lyn’s death was one of those wounds which never seemed to heal. Lyn was beautiful, vivacious and so young. Naturally, her death rocked everyone who knew her. It didn’t make sense and we just had to get used to living with our grief.

No doubt, over the last 856 years, millions have also had such moments where they’ve been  touched by God’s love and this indescribable peace at Notre Dame. Of course, I know this experience isn’t unique to us, although it certainly felt that way. People have prayed for the living, cried for the dead and wrestled with everything in between and Notre Dame has stood as solid as a rock through the French Revolution, two world wars, and hoards of visitors. Indeed, even that blazing infernal couldn’t destroy her completely, but it’s been too close a call.

Yet, she has also suffered terrible neglect, which has taken its toll. As Victor Hugo wrote in The Hunchback of Notre Dame:

 “(I)t is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer.”

So why was it so difficult to raise the money to restore and maintain this stunning, historic and sacred cathedral, which has always been at the very heart of Paris? It is hard to understand.

However, as we move forward as a global community, we now have the chance to show her the love we’ve always felt, but haven’t sufficiently expressed. She has given us so much, and now it’s our turn to give back in whatever way we can. For some of us, that will be in words or paint while others have been financially blessed.

Notre Dame needs to be that phoenix rising out of the ashes. We need to see that you can rise up from near total destruction, and start over not only as a building but also as individuals and communities. We can get better. Moreover, we also need to restore Notre Dame for future generations who will also be reaching out for God’s love and the peace which surpasses human understanding in an imperfect and often turbulent world.

Have you been to Notre Dame and would like to share your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Unmentionable Door…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

This week, I’ve gone rogue and featured a toilet door.  Indeed, I’ve not only photographed a toilet door, but an ordinary toilet door at that.

Yesterday, I was out buying pointe shoes for our budding junior ballerina, when nature called. While gracing the throne, I spotted the keyhole and whipped out my camera, leaned across and did the deed.

keyhole

So, while I acknowledge that many around here take their doors rather seriously, I mean no disrespect. I simply fancy old-fashioned keyholes with their inherit mystery and magic. It doesn’t matter whether that keyhole is on a toilet door, or a door at Parliament House, they each evoke a sense of awe and wonder.

Anyway, perhaps I shouldn’t be apologizing for photographing a toilet door. While not as auspicious as the front door, the toilet door certainly bears good tidings for those in need, especially when you’re “busting” to use the lingo of Australian children’s author,  Andy Griffiths. This is particularly true when you’re out and about and might’ve had a few coffees or too many beers and everywhere’s shut. Then, you’ll praise the Lord (or anyone else) for any kind of toilet… door or no door.

 

Blue keyhole

Couldn’t help editing my keyhole bringing out what looked to me like a monk figure viewed from behind. Do you see it?

This is not the first time I’ve photographed a keyhole for Thursday Doors. Last year, in one of my earliest contributions, I photographed Government House, Parramatta in Western Sydney and included a close-up through the front door lock, which actually seems upside down.

DSC_0525

Unfortunately, the powers that be didn’t like someone sitting on the floor and photographing their precious keyhole. Indeed, having someone sitting on the floor was deemed uncouth, vulgar an affront. I don’t know if anyone has ever spoken to me in such a disrespectful way and I certainly defended myself , which roused further disdain. I was probably lucky not to be thrown out. Despite paying my entry fee, I was also told to  call up and “book in a photo shoot”. I suppose this is what comes with having a weird photographic device called a “camera”, and not using a camera that’s better known as a “phone”. I should probably mention that for those more accustomed to phone cameras, my zoom lens probably resembles a telescope. However, it’s not my fault that mere mortals have succumbed to inferior equipment. 

Front Door, Government House, Parramatta.

By the way, I should also mention that the reason I was sitting on the floor, was due to my muscle weakness and disability, while also seeking a particular perspective. 

Anyway, as you could imagine, I was mighty grateful when nobody caught me taking photos through the keyhole yesterday. Indeed, I might’ve had a “please explain”*.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

* While I’m no fan of One Nation  Party founder, Pauline Hanson, like many Australians I’ve adopted her iconic phrase: “Please explain”.

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd March, 2019.

Rowena in art galleryWelcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I thought we’d backpedal a little and have coffee at the Pavilion Kiosk in Sydney’s Domain, across the road from the Art Gallery of NSW. I’ve chosen a table a bit out the back, which is under the shade of a Morton Bay Fig tree and for that rustic touch, we’re perching on leaf litter. Hard to believe this place is only a stone’s throw from the busy CBD.

DSC_2926

Brett Whiteley: Self-Portrait in the Studio at 36

I’ve brought you here, because I was here on Friday as I headed into the Art Gallery to see the Masters of Modern Art from  St Petersberg’s Hermitage Museum. I also wanted to squeeze in Brett Whiteley’s Exhibition:  Drawing Is Everything. Fortunately for you, I have my camera with me. So, as a whirled through these exhibitions like a cyclone, I committed what I could to “memory” and also bought the catalogue.

 

However, if you love and appreciate architecture, you might just want to rewind a little further and do a bit of a tour with me from St James’s Station on the edge of Hyde Park across the road to St James Banco Court and St James Church and then across the road to the Hyde Park Barracks, The Mint and Sydney Hospital.

I must admit that I was interested to note the statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on opposite sides of Macquarie Street. They reminded me of John Keat’s: Ode to A Grecian Urn where the lovers are destined to spend eternity apart. I felt like giving Queen Victoria a bit of a shove across the road to be with Albert but then I saw what looked like a magic wand in her hand, which looked rather sinister and I decided to leave her alone. If she wants to be with Albert, she’ll have to find her own way there.

These buildings along Macquarie Street are among the very oldest public buildings in Australia and are well revered and loved. However, although I’ve admired them walking past, I had not been inside The Mint or Sydney Hospital and was gobsmacked by their stunning interiors with all their ornate design features. Naturally, they don’t make buildings like they used to and I love the high, lofty ceilings, incredible staircases and detailed touches like pressed tin and plaster ceilings etc. I could quite easily call one of these places “home”, even though you’d need an army to keep them clean.

DSC_2799

The other thing I’d like to share with you about my trip to the Art Gallery, is that I ran into an old uni friend I haven’t seen for over 20-25 years. I was absolutely stoked, because I’ve lost track of quite a few really close friends from uni and most of them haven’t gone onto Facebook and I haven’t been able to track them down. While many people have come and gone throughout my life, there’s something special about my school and uni friends which is different to the rest. I also feel they know the person I’d describe as the “real me” a lot better, as I feel that this person is often swamped by responsibilities and chronic health issues and can be in absentia. My friend and I had a coffee together at the art gallery cafe and went through the exhibition together. It felt so good to see her. Moreover, after all my walking around, I was getting quite tired and just like she used to do, she took me under her wing. I do have a bit of a Paddington “Please take care of this bear” aura about me.

DSC_2902

Above: Brett Whiteley: Head Studies 1971

It was good to get away, even just for the day, as I’ve been trying to get the house sorted. I have started out in the kitchen with what I’ve called: “The kitchen Revolution”. However,  my plans backfired. I might be wrong here, but it seems like order requires space. So, when you decompress everything in your cupboard and create space for what you put back, its a very clear case of: “Houston, we have a problem”. Just like many a backyard mechanic has found left over bit reassembling an engine, I have stacks and stacks of left over “crap” after I’ve removed the “really crappy crap”. While many might advise me to consult Marie Kondo on how to resolve my dilemma, I’m staying well away. Rather, I’m  secretly hoping that someone will accidentally knock the piles of leftover plates, bowls and what not, off the bench so I don’t have to make any more decisions. Yet, even then, I’d still need to find space in the bin. So, my troubles still wouldn’t be over. Indeed, it almost makes me wonder whether it would’ve been better to have left “well enough alone”.

As if I hadn’t done enough damage, I also made the mistake of buying two hibiscus plants at our local Bunnings Hardware store to add a splash of colour and Hawaiian delight to our decrepit front yard. However, given how many plants I’ve murdered, Geoff insisted that I plant them straight away. This meant that the kids and I were out under floodlights ripping out the long grass the mower had missed by the handful, while our resident orb spider was rebuilding its expansive network of web on the left of our letterbox and our daughter was trying to keep out. Not one to even do spontaneous gardening by halves, I trudged out to the worm farm and carried through buckets of squishy compost and a gazillion worms to give the hibiscus a fighting chance. This, of course, reminds me that it’s now Monday and I haven’t watered them since. Somehow, I’ve become a very bad and neglectful plant parent!

This coming week is going to be quite busy. Our son turns 15 on Friday and will be getting baptised on Sunday at Church. I’m quite stoked that our teenage son is choosing to get baptised rather than all the other things he could be getting up to. I take nothing for granted and parenting is a bit like going to the beach where “you never turn your back on the sea”. Yet, just as easily as one can be shocked, you can  also be pleasantly surprised. Not that his decision is a big surprise. He’s had his own faith for a long time and goes to youth every Friday night. This is something that I’ve felt has been between him and God and not just something thrust on him from Mum and Dad. I’ve decided to keep the celebrations fairly simple, because otherwise, I’ll get overwhelmed and fall in a screaming heap.

Well, after spending a lot of time turning around and editing photos, I’d better head back to the kitchen and see if I can knock off another pile. Oh yes…and water the plants on the way!

Hope you’ve had a great week.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Central Station, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Well, my apologies to those of you who are well aware that it’s now longer Thursday and that calling this post “Thursday” Doors is a bit of a lie. Indeed, if I don’t hurry up, it’s going to turn into a double-lie because we’re about to hit Saturday here in Sydney, Australia.

However, I had a trip planned for the Art Gallery of NSW today. So, I thought I’d wait and see what I stumbled across. I’d also planned a doorscursion to historic Sydney Hospital, which I pulled off along with numerous diversions which will be appearing over the coming weeks. This time, I’ve decided not to share all my doors at once, and to keep something for later. I know that sounds remarkably restrained for an enthusiast like myself. However, I was a bit concerned this week that I’d run out. I don’t know if any of you have ever resorted for a “quickie” and just photographed any old door nearby just to have something to post. However, I don’t want to get to that point. In a world jam-packed full of doors, my well should never be allowed to run dry!!

While you might think that by going to a train station we’d be photographing trains,  since this post is for Thursday Doors, we’ll photographing doors instead. Unfortunately, they’re not the most exciting doors. Indeed, they barely rate compared to most of the doors I photographed later on. However, unlike some of the other door sequences I took today, my photos of Central Railway tell a quick story. Or, in Aussie parlance, they’re “a quickie”.

Rainbow Arch Central Station.jpg

However, before we get to the doors, I spotted a colourful rainbow arch in the foyer . I love rainbows and truly revel in rainbow colours. Well, at least I would if our society wasn’t so conservative and so ashamed of colour. Of course, the fact that I might wear all my colours at once if left to my own devices, has nothing to do with it. Anyway, the rainbow arch is in honour of the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and the parade will be held tomorrow night. I have to admit I love rainbows just for themselves, without any other meanings added on or being appropriated by any particular group. Rainbows are like butterflies, birds and the colour pink and shouldn’t belong to anyone.

Anyway, I still haven’t actually found any doors. So, I’d better get a wriggle on, especially as I was actually on my way to the Art Gallery of NSW.

So here goes:

DSC_2500

Here’s a close up of the handles, which I’m thinking were originally brass-plated and the brass has worn off over the years.

DSC_2509

In addition to this historic door, I also found a filled-in door. I must’ve been getting desperate by the point. I was only passing through Central and only popped through the turnstile to powder my nose.

DSC_2510

The next one isn’t strictly a door and is more of a doorway, but that’s close enough as far as I’m concerned.

DSC_2511

And there’s one last door…

DSC_2513

I’m sure there must be many more photogenic doors at Central Station. I just haven’t found them yet.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to our place. This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes

Rowena

Capitol Theatre, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

This week, my daughter and I waltzed through the doors of Sydney’s historic Capitol Theatre to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- The Musical and had the experience of a lifetime. You see, our dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, is playing that most annoying of spoilt rich brats, Veruca Salt and we attended the performance with about 20 other students and parents in a great big riotous rabble who were very one-eyed with our affections, while of course wanting to enjoy and absorb the entire show to the max.

While I’m busting to share a bit about seeing the musical, first I’m going to run through the architectural aspects of the theatre because, after all, doors are about architecture. Yet, at the same time, you could say that for a fledgling performer,  getting their foot in the door and better still, having their name printed up on their dressing room door under that golden star, represents the fulfillment of a journey of a thousand miles, a lot of hard work and faith in their vision no matter what.

dsc_2316

The Front Doors – Capitol Theatre

This year, the Capitol Theatre will be 127 years old. That’s older than any of us will ever be, and naturally this grand old dame has a past. Indeed, you’ll hardly be surprised to know, that she’s been revived (and you could even say reincarnated) into various guises over the years. After all, even a building must feel like a change from time to time.

 

belmore-markets-450x286

A horse bus trundles past and carts line up outside the New Belmore Markets, published by Kerry and Co, Australia, 1893-1909, MAAS Collection, 85/1284-1538

The Capitol Theatre started out in life in 1892 as the New Belmore Markets, in Haymarket (although they were officially named after the mayor, Sir William Manning). The building was designed by council architect, George McRae, who also prepared the design for the Queen Victoria Markets. The market’s motif of fruit and foliage may still be seen in the terra cotta decorative relief of fruit and foliage in the spandrels of the arches.

Wirths-circus-opening 1916.jpg

2012/104/1-2/9 Photographic print, black and white, mounted, elevated view of Wirths’ Circus performers and animals on stage and in circus ring watched by the audience at the Hippodrome (Capitol Theatre), Sydney New South Wales, photographed by J D Cleary

In 1916 the building was converted to a hippodrome designed specifically for the Wirth Bros circus, which included a reinforced concrete water tank for performances by seals and polar bears. The tank had a hydraulically controlled platform that was raised from the base to form a cover that doubled as a circus ring when the pool was not in use. While I know the use of live animals in circuses is something many of us no longer condone, the clowns and acrobats still make the circus a show.

Inside the theatre.jpg

Inside Capitol Theatre – Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical.

Within 10 years the circus became financially unviable and Wirth Bros initiated the idea of converting the theatre to a picture palace or movie theatre and Union Theatres became its next tenant. The classical reproduction statues and architectural props were manufactured in the US, scrupulously numbered for shipment and reassembly – supervised by Sydney theatre designer Henry White. Opening night was held on Saturday 7th April, 1928:

 

OPENING CEREMONY

The effect of the new Capitol Theatre on the crowds which entered it on Saturday night was bewildering, and a little overwhelming. One seemed to have stepped from under the dull skies of everyday life and passed into an enchanted region, where the depth of the blue heavens had something magical about it, and something heavily exotic. Clouds passed lightly over; then stars began to twinkle. Then again all was blue and clear.

This “atmospheric” effect had been carried out, not only in the auditorium itself, but also in the entrance lounge, so that it leapt upon the visitors the instant they left the street. The construction and decorations were all in the Venetian style. Facing the entrance above the doors which led to the stalls ran a slender balustrade, with tapestries hanging over it and lying against the pinkish-brown, variegated stucco of the walls. At either end stairways in two flights ran up to the balcony. Everywhere one looked there was bas-reliefs set into the wall, tapestries hanging, twisted pillars of red and gold.

In the auditorium itself there was a much greater profusion of sculpture and architectural detail and objects of art; but the great size of the place enabled all this to be set forth with no suspicion of cramping. Indeed, the designers have achieved a remarkable feeling of depth and vastness. The two sides of the theatre are quite dissimilar in treatment. On the left, as one faced the screen, the irregular facade terminated in a delightful garden, with a round tower in the midst, supported by red and white Florentine pillars, with flowering vines drooping down towards the orchestra, with flocks of snowy doves. On the right a series of huge pedestals and niches, bearing reproductions of the Hermes of Praxiteles, the Capitoline Wolf, and other famous statues, and thrown into relief by the decorative cypress trees behind, led down to a large palace-front with a balcony. As for the proscenium itself, that was roofed in red tiles, to heighten the feel- ing of out-of-doors, surmounted by groups of beautiful glowing lamps, and very richly ornamented, a particularly attractive feature being a row of peacocks with electric lights behind them.

The lighting in fact, played a great part in the theatre’s success. In general it was diffused, and gained a pleasantly restful quality from the blue that floated In the roof; but at the same time bulbs bad been concealed here and there, so as to bring out the features of the decoration and give the surroundings vivacity. Sometimes, when all the main lights had been extinguished, there remained a charming half-glow on the proscenium, with the lamps, a glow of scarlet in the niches behind the statues, and a yellow glare behind some trelllslns at the sides as the dominant notes.

The first event on Saturday night when the curtain of rich varigated red and green rose from the footlights was the official opening of the theatre by the Chief Civic Commissioner (Mr. Fleming). The directors of Union Theatres, Ltd., said Mr. Fleming, deserved the highest praise for this venture, which had cost them £180,000. It was remarkable to think what progress the films had made during the very few years they had been in existence. He himself could remember attending the first motion picture screened in Sydney.”Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 – 1954), Monday 9 April 1928, page 4

 

However, thanks to the advent of TV, attendances at theatres plummeted and after the very successful staging of Jesus Christ Super Star in 1972, the future of the Capitol Theatre hung in the balance once again and plans were made to demolish it and replace it with a modern lyric theatre. In 1981 Australia’s last remaining atmospheric theatre was snatched from the jaws of the bulldozer by a Heritage Council conservation order and plans were made to restore the building and create a world-class lyric theatre. You can read more about that here.

So, after all these different roles, as I said, the Capitol Theatre is currently hosting Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical. Although my daughter does a lot of dancing and has appeared in multiple performances, we only get to one of these big shows every couple of years and when we do we get right into it buying the merchandise, the musical score and feeling lost somewhere in between this fabricated world and reality. The first big musical I went to was Annie and then my daughter and I went to see Matilda a few ago. However, Charlie has a special place in our hearts thanks to Miss Karina, who I mentioned is our dance teacher and staring as Veruca Salt.  She spends the entire show in a very fancy and oh so over the top pink tutu, pointe shoes and a double-decker tiara…only the best.

amelia and karina

Although Miss Karina has one of the lead roles, we didn’t know how long she’d appear on stage and whether she’d actually get a chance to dance very much. Aside from having seen her costume and being warned she gets eaten by squirrels, we were in the dark. Her performance was going to be a complete surprise. Moreover, that’s what it’s going to stay, because I don’t want to spoil your fun either. Let’s just say there was much more that I expected and that if you like a bit of ballet but might not get through an entire ballet, you’ll love this. Indeed, it might even encourage you to hit the big time.

dsc_2309

After the performance, we all headed round to Stage Door to meet up with Miss Karina and we had the added bonus of Willy Wonka as well. I think all of us had seen her the day before in the studio. However, it was like we hadn’t seen her in years and as she walked out stage door, she was swamped. A performing artist can have fans, but nothing compares to this. I hope she felt the love, because I sure did.

I am still working on a more extended post about our Charlie experience, but it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. I researched Roald Dahl a few years ago for a series I wrote: Letters to Dead Poets. It turns out the Roald Dahl and I have some peculiar similarities and while I been beavering away on that post for a few days, I have to get a lot of details right and it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. However, getting historical facts wrong is worse in my book than making grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Yet, I haven’t given up. It’s simply a work in progress.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena