Actors and playwrights Yvette Bromley and Mervyn Thompson began the Court Theatre in August 1970 as they realised the need for a professional theatre in Christchurch. This page looks at the various venues of the Court Theatre. The information is condensed from The Court’s Book of Celebration, published by The Christchurch Theatre Trust, April 1991.
Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers
The first venue was the stone chamber of the Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers, and the first production ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ was staged in April 1971. The Court Theatre had to regularly move furniture to accommodate Māori Land Court sittings. There was also a lack of toilets, and the chamber had bad acoustics.
Canterbury Society of Arts
In June 1971, the Court Theatre moved to the old Canterbury Society of Arts premises, one of the law court buildings on the corner of Durham and Armagh streets (this building was demolished following the February 2011 earthquake).
The Court Theatre occupied the old Canterbury Society of Arts building from June 1971 until May 1972. The Court Theatre succeeded in performing its plays any way possible, despite props disappearing and the set collapsing. There was no stage, no designated construction spaces or rehearsal rooms. When the law courts moved in, another venue had to be found.
The third venue was Beggs Theatrette, home to the Court Theatre from June until August 1972. It was a last resort as lugging equipment up two flights of stairs and having only a very small acting space was not ideal. After performing only two plays there the new tenants’ sudden arrival heralded time to move on again.
The Court moved to the Orange Hall in Worcester Street, home of the Orange Lodge. This was the Court Theatre’s venue from September 1972 until February 1976, and they shared the building with the Orangemen who occupied the top floor.
The Orangemen’s songs drifted down to the Court Theatre below, and they even found a skull under the dais.
The Arts Centre
In February 1976 the Court Theatre moved to the Arts Centre. The old University’s high tension electricity laboratory became the main auditorium. Court 2 was the old hydraulics laboratory. The Court expanded steadily, including into the old upstairs Lecture Room D. The last extension was in 1990.
After the February 2011 earthquake, The Court could no longer operate from The Arts Centre and a new venue was located in Addington.
The Court Theatre in Addington in a converted warehouse known as "The Shed" opened on 10 December 2011. The theatre has 388 seats.
Purpose-built venue on Gloucester-Colombo Corner
Ground works on the site for a new Court Theatre building were started in November 2021 with construction expected to begin in 2022.
The new building was designed by London-based architects Haworth Tompkins with New Zealand’s Athfield Architects. It will have a 360-seat main playhouse auditorium; a 130-seat studio theatre, where children’s and family shows can be held; and front-of-house facilities.
The building will be completed and opened in 2024.
For more information
- Search our catalogue for the Court Theatre
- Browse Digital NZ for Court Theatre articles and images
- Visit The Court Theatre website
- The Colombo-Gloucester corner: A sweet spot over the years