Court workshop all set for new era

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2011
court theatre
Dean Kozanic/FAIRFAX NZ

SETTING SCENE: Court Theatre workshop supervisor Nigel Kerr puts the finishing touches to the set of the opening show

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Christchurch Arts

The Theatre Royal's rich history Court workshop all set for new era An unlikely pairing Dreaming of Electric Sheep The phantom never dies Art in river city Crunch time at CAG Art lovers eager to support artists In the flooded stream Sagnier speaks

The new Court Theatre will bring everybody under one roof for the first time.

The theatre's workshop, which designs and builds all the sets for plays, is being brought into the fold.

The workshop was formerly in its own building about 8 kilometres from the Arts Centre theatre, but is now housed in a large space behind the auditorium in the former granary that has become the Court's new home.

The court will reopen to the public at its new Addington base on Saturday night with the new play A Shortcut to Happiness.

Court Theatre workshop supervisor Nigel Kerr said the new space would mean more ambitious sets.

Before the February earthquake closed the Arts Centre base, sets were built at the Leeds St, Phillipstown, workshop in kit form and taken to the theatre in a trailer.

"The huge practical advantage is we are at the back of the theatre now, so we build the set and wheel it up the ramp and it is on the stage. We don't need to do the travelling any more," Kerr said.

"Using a van with a trailer is all over now. That is a huge thing. We are looking forward to that."

The ramp sloping from the workshop space to the stage will allow large sets to be built and then wheeled into place. The larger wings and higher clearance above the stage will also allow more elaborate sets.

Kerr has been with the Court Theatre for over a decade and his first set-building job was on Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures film in 1994.

The four fulltime and one part-time staff were in the old Leeds St workshop when the February quake struck.

"We thought the tilt-slab concrete building next door was going to come down on us and crush us. It was the scariest thing," Kerr said.

"Liquefaction started bubbling up as we were getting out. Tools and bits of set came crashing down.

"We recovered everything we could, but there are probably still a few of our tools under the liquefaction."

Workshop staff moved into the new granary building, known as The Shed, on June 8. They were building sets for the first play at the same time as contractors were building the new theatre around them.

"We came here when the building was a shell and started doing odd jobs about the place before the contractors arrived," Kerr said.

"We have been on the payroll since February. That has been incredible. We absolutely appreciate the support the Court Theatre has given us."

Workshop staff were pleased to be back in business.

"It is a new space and it is the start of a new era for the Court Theatre. It is not just an opening show; it is the opening of a whole new thing, really," he said.

"We were looking forward to getting creative with our building again. This is what we do and what we really enjoy doing."

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