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February 14, 2005 | by  | in Music |
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Places to See Theatre in Wellington

Wellington has lots of theatres and venues where one can enjoy the pleasures of the theatre.

BATS (1 Kent Tce; 802 4176):
Originally conceived of as a 1930s dance hall before being gutted by fire, BATS is a great theatre and is the epicenter of Wellington’s indie and amateur theatre scene. It has a fabulous little bar attached that is almost worth the visit in itself. BATS has a policy of developing experimental New Zealand theatre and, luckily for students, ticket prices are kept relatively low. The BATS program is very diverse; this month alone features musical theater, political satire, stand-up, multimedia performance, dance and spoken word. Oh yeah, and a lot of straight-up plays. The shows are often a little edgier than the mainstream theatres but are always highly enjoyable. Pushing the boundaries has become a BATS tradition.

Circa (1 Taranaki Street; 801 7992):
Circa is actually two theatres in one, Circa Theatre and Circa Studio. It is one of seven professional theatres in New Zealand (along with Downstage), so it attracts the best local and international talent. Expect big-name playwrights and large casts from the Theatre, while the Studio leans more towards emerging names and intimate performances. Circa is easy to find, being right across the courtyard from Te Papa and the staff at Martin’s Bar are always very obliging (and cute).

Downstage (Corner Courtney Place and Cambridge Terrace; 801 6946):
Downstage is New Zealand’s longest running professional theatre. It is a single, versatile theatre space with two seating levels, and runs everything from modern Kiwi plays through to Shakespeare. In terms of staging, Downstage is one of the most versatile theatre spaces in Wellington. Underneath is The Tasting Room, which is great if you like Montieth’s Beer.

The Opera House (111 Manners Street; 384 3840):
The sign on the door of The Opera House claims that it is closed for renovation (which it desperately needs) and will be reopening in April. Judge it for yourself when it reopens. Traditionally it is more of a musical and dance venue and is operated by the St. James crew.

The Westpac St. James Theatre (77-87 Courtenay Place; 384 3840):
Built in 1912 for the vaudeville, this majestic venue languished in disrepair until the mid ‘90s when the people at Westpac pumped money into it in order to do it up. The St. James is a stunning theatre that reeks of nineteenth century pomp (think something befitting a character in an Oscar Wilde play). Whenever I come here I always feel underdressed. It is mainly used for dance although it does catch up-market touring theatre, circus and music. The St. James is home to the Royal New Zealand Ballet. It is not cheap but you can’t go past it for a grand night out.

Studio 77 (77 Fairlie Tce; 463 5359)
Studio 77 is the performance venue of the Victoria University Theatre Department. It has an extremely versatile theatre space that includes a concrete exposed amphitheatre which can be loads of fun, provided you bring a cushion. Inside the theatre is cozy but not extremely inviting (unless you like vending machine snacks and perked coffee), but usually the theatre on offer is amateur in name only.

Memorial Theatre (Student Union Building; tickets from VUWSA office):
The Memorial Theatre is located in the Student Union Building and is used for almost everything from film screenings and award ceremonies to debates and real live theatre like capping reviews (put on by the highly talented VUW Drama Club). It is close to Eastside (cheep beer) and all the other SUB amenities. The foyer also serves a number of other purposes including hosting the occasional dance party or blood bank when the donor van is in the neighborhood.

Gryphon Theatre (22 Ghuznee St; 385 0532):
The Gryphon Theatre is a relatively recent addition to Wellington. It is home to Stagecraft Theatre Inc. and usually features things toward the indy/edgy end of the theatre spectrum. Outside there is usually a board advertising what is on at the moment and often features adds for open auditions (as does the notice board at BATS). And gryphons are cool!

Capital E (Civic Square; 913 3720):
The ‘E’ has a theatre that regularly puts on tshows targeting a younger audience (i.e. children). The shows are usually of a good quality so if you are lost for ways to entertain your (or somebody else’s) children on a rainy afternoon give it a try.

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About the Author ()

HAILING FROM the upper-middle- class hell of Havelock North, Jules is in the final semester of a bachelor’s degree in Trenchermanship (majoring in Gourmandry), is a self-professed Anarcho-Dandy and resides in the Aro Valley. He likes to spend his days pursuing whimsical follies of every sort and his evenings gallivanting through the bars and restaurants of Wellington in search of the perfect wine list. He has unfailingly dedicated his life to the excessive consumption of food and drink (despite having no discernable way of paying for it), and expects to die of simultaneous heart and kidney failure at thirty-nine. His only hope is that very soon people will start to pay him for his opinions (of which he is endowed with aplenty). Jules has a penchant for vintage Oloroso.

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