Brodie Reilly, 17, Logan Reilly, 19 , Koby L’Estrelle, 10 and Lea Coleman rehearse James and The Giant Peach at the Murwillumbah Civic Centre.
Brodie Reilly, 17, Logan Reilly, 19 , Koby L’Estrelle, 10 and Lea Coleman rehearse James and The Giant Peach at the Murwillumbah Civic Centre. Blainey Woodham

Curtains close on Mbah theatre?

MURWILLUMBAH Theatre Company members fear they may have to draw the final curtain on their performances because of a sudden hike in fees for use of its home stage in the town’s Civic Centre.

Tweed Shire councillors have been told an 800 per cent increase in rent it charges to use the auditorium in the Civic Centre has left the more-than 30-year-old theatre company with a “precarious future”.

The company’s artistic director, Bryanne Jardine, told councillors this week the sudden withdrawal of support from the council and the imposition of thousands of dollars in hire fees each year “has brought us to the point of seriously questioning our viability”.

“We will be wiped out,” she added. “In fact we do not see there being any locally produced quality live theatre after the next 12 months under the current arrangements.”

Mrs Jardine said until recent council budget changes the company had been charged a flat rate of $10 for the use of the auditorium for rehearsals and set construction.

A further charge of 10 per cent of door takings was then applied providing the council with one-tenth of $1200 in takings on a “good day”.

Whereas the council earned $609 for auditorium hire to the company for its production Ruby Moon, the cost for the recent performances of James and the Giant Peach was $2097.

The cost was so high that the company found it cheaper to rent industrial space for rehearsals, paying out another $1056 which it had not needed to do previously.

James and the Giant Peach (which is on the primary school reading list) had over 1000 school children at two performances,” Mrs Jardine said.

“Not only are we a cultural driver in the local community but an economic one as well.

“Our audience comes from Ballina to the Gold Coast and they often have a meal in the town.

“The majority of the school audience just mentioned was bussed into the town.”

Mrs Jardine said the auditorium was the best stage in town with no other stage or performance space suitable or available.

“In the interest of continuing to provide theatre experience to a growing community we are asking council to review its fees and charges for Murwillumbah Theatre Company and reinstate our previous partnership arrangement,” she said.

Councillors are expected to look at the issue at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.



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