The 40th anniversary of The University of Western Australia's Octagon Theatre will be celebrated this Saturday.
Princess Margaret, Sir Edmund Hillary, Mel Gibson, Sir Bob Geldof, Marianne Faithfull, Spike Milligan, Sir David Attenborough, Timothy West and Prunella Scales are among those who have visited or performed at the Octagon over the past four decades.
The 658-seat Octagon was designed by local architects Hill and Parkinson following consultation with renowned theatre architect, Sir Tyrone Guthrie. It cost about $350,000 to build, and was opened by the then Chancellor of the University and Chief Justice of Western Australia, Sir Lawrence Jackson.
Its ‘thrust' stage design was unique to Perth. Its first production, part of the Festival of Perth, was the Melbourne Theatre Company's Shakespearean drama Henry IV Part One. Since then it has been used for 170 events a year including forums and rock concerts, attracting more than 75,000 patrons. Among this year's offerings were a record breaking season of Busting Out!, Oz Opera's Madam Butterfly, Samuel Beckett's Fragments for the Perth International Arts Festival, Steeleye Span and a showcase of Australian and international comedians including Jimeoin, Adam Hills, Judith Lucy and Maz Jobrani. The Octagon also accommodates around 25 academic lectures a week for 9,000 University undergraduates. It is regularly in use for 15 hours a day, making it perhaps the most utilised theatre in Australia.
Over the last 25 years there have been additions and extensions to the original building, the most recent being an artists' green room, foyer, balcony and bar.
Guests at the anniversary will include Sydney-based lecturer, theatre and television director Aarne Neeme, inaugural resident director of the Octagon Theatre Company; former Festival of Perth director David Blenkinsop; well-known West Australian theatre identities Faith Richardson (nee Clayton), Edgar Metcalf and Joan Pope; and Professor Ted Snell, Kevin Hamersley and John Doyle, representing UWA theatres and the arts. Aarne Neeme will be guest speaker at the celebration.
The party will continue with the sell-out opening night of Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, directed for the Graduate Dramatic Society by Stephen Lee.