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November 21, 2018 November 2018 No Comments

Our speaker last month was John Gilberthorpe. A year after arriving in Greytown in 2008 John joined Greytown Little Theatre (GLT). In 2017 he was elected President. Looking back, the theatre was founded in 1921 by Mr and Mrs Thompson (of Thompson and Tait from Wellington) making GLT one of the older community theatre groups in New Zealand. The theatre has been very active for many years and under the guidance of the late Noeline Ball and Enid Nixon in the 1990s and early 2000s the group thrived. They presented musical productions and plays in a range of venues including the Greytown Town Hall.

The theatre group purchased the old Farmers’ Co-op building at 68 Main Street and opened it as a theatre in 2005. Following the Christchurch earthquake building owners were required to get engineer’s assessments of their buildings. The subsequent report was not good. The building was high risk being only15% of code and built of unreinforced masonry. The wisdom of continuing to use the building was debated and it was decided that GLT needed to act. 

In 2017 a full feasibility study was undertaken of the options. It was agreed that the theatre needed to be made fit for purpose providing much improved facilities for both the audience and members working on the production. Three options were identified: strengthening and reconfiguring to improve the layout, demolition and rebuilding to a similar plan or selling the site and rebuilding on another location. The first two were totally unaffordable after a QS report, so the last option was decided. A site was found in the southern end of West Street, owned by the South Wairarapa District Council.

In September 2017 the SWDC agreed to a long-term lease at a peppercorn rental. The new building will include a flexible auditorium space with retractable seating, foyer, improved dressing rooms, green room and storage for costumes and equipment. It is hoped that the theatre can be opened within the next two years, but this will be subject to full funding being secured. 

The old theatre has been sold and GLT will vacate the premises by 19 October. In the meantime, GLT will continue to operate and will perform at other locations in the town and at pop up locations.  As well as considering the past and present, the theatre group has also had to think about the future. To this end, in the last two years its members have worked closely with Kuranui College students to encourage a younger group of members. 

In conclusion, John advised that the GLT has had generous support for the project from the wider community including Trust House Foundation, Greytown Lioness Club, Rigg Zschokke Limited, Masterton and Perception Planning, Martinborough, Although John did not ask, I gained the impression that any donations would also be very welcome. 

New members are welcome, please contact Rosemary Newton @ (06) 304 9750

Anne Hayden Editor,  Inner Wheel of South Wairarapa

Photo caption: Alisoun Werry thanks John Gilberthorpe

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