28 Aug 2018

Revived Andromeda Theatre complex to be built in weeks

From Checkpoint, 5:47 pm on 28 August 2018

A seemingly dead proposal for a new theatre complex in Christchurch has been resurrected, and will now open in a matter of weeks.

Theatre producer Michael Bell wanted to leave when the Christchurch City Council rejected his idea for a multi-use theatre complex in the city's performing arts precinct.

There were two main proposals on the table - Mr Bell's, nicknamed the Andromeda, and a new theatre for the Court Theatre, Christchurch's biggest professional company.

After years of discussion the council opted two months ago to fund the building of a new Court Theatre.

But now, the Andromeda proposal was making a sort of return.

Mr Bell has got permission to run a temporary theatre complex - featuring a 300-seat tent, portable stage, bar, and entrance made up of shipping containers - in the heart of the partially completed Performing Arts precinct.

"I'm not going to lie, I was ready to give up - I had given up," he said.

"I just received phone calls and messages from a lot of groups that encouraged me to keep going."

A council working group was not due to report back with a business case until next March, and that was where Mr Bell saw an opportunity to create the new "Little Andromeda".

He was expecting the venue to have 12,000 people in the first six-week season.

In total, 58 groups so far have put up their hands up to perform there, including local theatre company Play Space, which would bring '70s show The Lifestyle to the temporary venue.

Actress Jo Ghastly said finding the right-sized venue for small companies was near impossible.

"There's a lot of issues in terms of people knowing that things are on ... it's really dotted around in suburbia or in bars or inappropriate venues," she said.

The project cost about $60,000, although Mr Bell said a quarter of that would come from the council.

However, Mr Bell was still holding on to the hope of a permanent location as this was only temporary.

"It would be nice to have a permanent space, of course, but I am just really happy we have been granted permission to do this even temporarily," he said.

If resource consent is granted, Little Andromeda will open in October.