Even a princess needs the occasional makeover and this time it was Melbourne’s Princess Theatre getting the new look. A short break in theatre bookings late last year enabled the Marriner Group to use the time for an overdue renovation for this beautiful heritage theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District.
Stepping inside the foyer, the most notable change is the installation of a new bar. The box office had previously occupied this very generous space, but with most patrons purchasing tickets online in advance there was no longer a need for such a large box office. The box office is now located where the old “concessions stand” used to be. A new bar has been built by local carpenters and this stunning piece looks like it’s an original part of the theatre. Topping the woodwork is a stunning, zinc benchtop that was custom designed and forged in France.
The old stalls bar, which used to be against the window edge of the downstairs foyer, has now been removed. This has opened up the foyer and created much more space for the large crowds that fill this entry. There is now a clear thoroughfare from one end of the foyer to the other. This one change has made a huge impact on the spaciousness of the foyer.
Moving the box office to create the new space revealed a patch of ceiling requiring appropriate period-style lighting. Thankfully, an old lighting fixture, identical to the ones already in place, was found in the basement of the theatre a few years ago. Thankfully it was kept in storage just in case it was needed one day. It now hangs in the foyer.
The foyer walls have been repaired and repainted in a slightly lighter colour and an historically correct mottled texture. The entire place looks remarkably fresh, yet historically appropriate, as though we have stepped back in time.
Female patrons to the Princess Theatre will be delighted to discover there have been changes to the downstairs foyer toilets. The men’s and women’s toilets have been swapped and had a complete refurbishment. The result is over double the number of ladies cubicles, increasing from three to seven. For all women who have queued in the line for toilets at The Princess this is very exciting news!
Adjoining the theatre is the Federici Bistro, filled with various theatre memorabilia.
Hanging on one wall, though, is a new piece of art work. Entitled Portrait of a Ghost. The commissioned work is by Seung Mo Park of South Korea and depicts Frederick Federici. Frederici was an Italian-born British opera singer who moved to Australia in 1887. Playing the role of Mephistopheles in the the opera Faust, Federici sang out his last note on the opening night, descended through a trap door in the stage of The Princess Theatre, suffered a heart attack and died suddenly. Legend says that the ghost of Federici continues to haunt the theatre.
The art work is made of wire. It looks stunning from a distance but you really need to take a close-up look to appreciate the composition of this artwork. Grab a coffee, sit back and admire the view.
There are further renovation plans for the Princess Theatre, but for now this glorious theatre is looking her stunning best. With the Melbourne season of Fiddler On The Roof now finished, the theatre is preparing for the arrival of Matilda The Musical.
Photo credit: David Hilbig