Each day tourists alight from trains at the Fremantle Station and walk along Market Street, unaware that a building they pass first opened one hundred years ago as the Princess Theatre.
At the time it was the first port of call for European and South African entertainers voyaging to the lucrative vaudeville circuit on the east coast. Many performers shared the Princess programme with short silent films. However, as technology and the art of cinema improved and with the arrival of Talkies, this form of programming ceased. In 1941 the building was extensively altered and the auditorium lost its original 1912 décor. The Princess remained a popular “picture theatre” until the curtains closed for the last time in June 1969. The space has been put to several uses – including a mechanics workshop and last year as a rehearsal space for the contemporary West Australian opera Into The Shimmer Heat.
Early in 1938 the Crown Theatre, designed by architects Oldham, Boas and Ednie Brown, was rapidly taking shape on the corner of Queen and High Streets. By the time it opened in August, with a screening of the cartoon classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, the name was changed to Hoyts Fremantle. For sailors and servicemen stationed in Fremantle, it’s cinematic attractions offered a brief escape from the grim reality of World War 11. Of the few “live” performances hosted atHoyts, of particular interest was a wartime Red Cross Concert starring the celebrated actor, playwright, composer and wit Noel Coward! Today most people remember Hoyts as The Oriana, the name adopted in 1959. This beautiful curving expanse of cinema architecture was bulldozed in 1971.
Also on display is a remarkable collection of photographs and memorabilia from the Milton And Adams Comedy Company.These hardy performers battled heat, dust, distance and unsealed roads as they trekked across the Nullarbor Plain to bring entertainment to Perth and the regional towns of W.A. Fortunately for us they took their camera with them and the results can be seen in this colourful and quirky exhibition. Each spring they toured the rural areas, returning to Perth when the weather deteriorated. The Company produced 75 consecutive shows (with a weekly change) from 1931 to 1932 at the Luxor, a theatre known as the city’s Home of Vaudeville.
Tickets: Admission by gold coin donation or item of memorabilia.
When: Until Friday 30 March, 2012
Times: Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm
Venue: DownStairs at the Maj
His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay St, Perth
Enquiries: Ph 9265 0900
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