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Festival Theatre forced to close for plaza works

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Building works on the new Festival Plaza will force the closure of the Adelaide Festival Centre’s largest venue, the Festival Theatre, for up to seven months from mid-July.

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In an announcement this morning, the centre said the “temporary and unavoidable” closure was required to strengthen the concrete slab around the southern side of the 1950-seat theatre and would avoid up to two years of ongoing construction works affecting its foyers, box office, bars and toilets.

“We are closing later this year to allow the most invasive works to happen quickly and safely on the advice of Festival Plaza’s construction partners and in consultation with the State Government,” Adelaide Festival Centre CEO and artistic director Douglas Gautier said in a statement.

The closure will occur after the 2021 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which runs from June 11-26, but will affect around 10 to 15 shows planned from mid-July until February next year, most of which had not yet gone on sale.

Gautier told InDaily that bookings had been picking up since the COVID-19 shutdown and the AFC had had to scramble to change the venues and dates of performances booked into the Festival Theatre.

He said the Dunstan Playhouse, Space Theatre and the newly rebuilt 1467-seat Her Majesty’s Theatre would all stay open and could accommodate most of the programmed performances.

“There was quite a bit in there [the Festival Theatre], so we’ve had to really conduct negotiations across the board with promoters, home companies and various community organisations…

“We were not too pleased to receive the information [about the closure] but there was no question that it was unavoidable; when public safety is involved, we really have no choice.”

He said the temporary closure of Festival Theatre would present an opportunity to proceed with internal upgrades, including the refurbishment of artists’ dressing rooms and green rooms.

Asked whether the Festival Centre had been given a guarantee that the works would be completed within the seven months and in time for next year’s summer festival season, Gautier said all those involved were working hard to ensure this was achieved: “From our own point of view, clearly we want to be open by early February 2022.”

Looking at the bigger picture, he believes the construction works will lead to a much better outcome in the long term.

“Once the adjoining Plaza is completed, it will provide a new entrance to the Festival Theatre and be a gateway to the whole Riverbank Precinct.”

Work on the redevelopment of the Festival Plaza began around the middle of last year as part of a larger project that includes the construction of a 27-storey office tower and retail space, and a redeveloped car park with 1560 spaces.

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