Golden Jubilee for Octagon
Happy 50th birthday to UWA’s theatre of dreams!
Perth Festival has shared some amazing performances and events in the Octagon Theatre over the past 50 years.
As this special venue at the University of Western Australia celebrates its golden anniversary this year, we cast our minds back to when the great Australian actor Frank Thring strode the stage in the first-ever Octagon production as part of the 1969 Perth Festival,
The Melbourne Theatre Company production of Henry IV (Part I) thrilled Perth audiences, not just for the quality of the performances, but for the up-close intimacy of the Octagon’s ‘thrust' stage design, a first for this city and Australia as a whole.
Princess Margaret, Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Bob Geldof, Marianne Faithfull, Spike Milligan, Greta Scacchi, Steven Berkoff, Sir David Attenborough, Timothy West and Prunella Scales are among the other big names to have visited or performed at the Octagon over the past five decades.
Among the many Perth Festival shows over the years, the Octagon hosted the world-premiere of Bran Nue Dae in 1990 and the Festival debut of a young actor by the name of Mel Gibson opposite Angela Punch (McGregor) in John Bell’s Nimrod production of Romeo and Juliet in 1979.
Starting to Take Shape
Local architects Hill and Parkinson designed the 658-seat Octagon in close consultation with renowned British theatre director Sir Tyrone Guthrie, who directed Guthrie Oedipus the King and All’s Well That Ends Well there in 1971.
Apart from a few small theatres in the round, The Octagon was the first in the nation to dispense with traditional framed proscenium arch stage to thrust forward into the auditorium for greater audience involvement.
The theatre cost about $350,000 to build ($4.2 million in today’s dollars), and was opened by the then Chancellor of the University and Chief Justice of Western Australia, Sir Lawrence Jackson.
The UWA Historical Society is celebrating the Octagon’s rich history with a special presentation at the theatre on the evening of Tuesday 15 October.
Dr Joan Pope, Dr William (Bill) Dunstone and UWA Theatres Manager Rob Lines will be providing an overview of the Theatre's history from 5:30 - 6:15pm, then everyone is invited to stay for drinks and reminiscences.
The event starts at 5pm from the Bradley Studio (accessed from the car park entry at the rear) and the presentation will commence at 5.30pm on the Octagon stage, followed by drinks and reminiscences through to 7:30pm.
For more information and registration click here.