As the third eldest theatre in Australia, and the eldest in Brisbane, the Princess Theatre is a stunning Italianate-style building. With a complex but extensive history of over 130 years, the venue has been reinvigorated in recent years, once again being utilised for its initial purpose of public events, intimate experiences, and entertainment.
Originally named South Brisbane Public Hall, the venue was designed by architect John Nicholson for a Brisbane solicitor, Phillip Hardgrave. It opened in 1888, but was renamed several times before becoming the Princess Theatre in 1893. Some of its previous names included Boggo Road Hall, the New Theatre Royal and the Boggo Road Theatre. The final name came in 1893 after Phillip Hardgrave sold the property to his father, the former mayor of Brisbane.
Throughout its life, the Princess Theatre has housed many different businesses and organisations, at one time hosting the US Entertainment Unit, at another a clothing factory, and more recently an engineering firm. Perhaps its most memorable incarnation was as a picture theatre throughout the wartime era, presenting films with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, and later technicolour film.
A dark period for the venue’s entertainment life came between 1949 and 1985, during which time several non-arts related businesses operated out of the space. However, new life was given in the late 80s with Twelfth Night Theatre Company (aka TN! Theatre Company) leasing the theatre and presenting numerous main house productions. Other notable users of the space have included Brisbane Theatre Group, the Rock’n’Roll Circus, and The Whitlams who performed there in the mid to late 90s.
On October 21st, 1992, the venue was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, protecting it from neglect and obtrusive future development.
After an extensive refurbishment, the Princess Theatre has experienced a revival in recent years. LifeCity Church, the current owner-operators of the venue, have invested time and money into nurturing and promoting the local icon.
A hotspot for corporate functions and weddings, the Princess Theatre still plays host to live entertainment. Most notably from Lynch and Paterson who present orchestral performances, musicals, and concerts with some of Brisbane’s finest independent artists.
With a large 8mx8m stage, and an extension of 2mx13m, the venue provides all the necessities for music and theatrical performance. Classic red velvet curtains fill the proscenium, a 5mx8m cyclorama lines the rear, and a green room with ample facilities provides performers a practical space to prepare.
The ground level audience area is customizable, providing unlimited potential to hirers. Giving the theatre an element of charm is the grand staircase at the entrance, which leads to a quality dress circle of some 200 seats, and public restrooms.
For more information about the hire of the space, or to see more, visit the Princess Theatre.
Images Sourced from the Princess Theatre website and the Public Domain.