Comedy Theatre: 228-240 Exhibition Street, MELBOURNE
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Building ProfileName : Comedy Theatre
LocationAddress: 228-240 Exhibition Street
Construction DetailsBuilt: 1927 - 1928
Original use: Theatre
Current use: Theatre
Built in the Interwar period in the Renaissance Revival style
The five storey main facade is constructed in tapestry brickwork and has Spanish Mission style stucco dressings, which include attached columns and arches and a decorative panel over the service entrance. The facade is arranged with the theatre doors in the centre and other entrances to each side. There is a separate entrance to the offices on the upper floors at the front. The second floor has arched openings with balconies (with iron railings) and there is a deep, projecting structure at fifth floor level which formerly featured flagpoles. The front roof is clad with pantiles.The interior of the Comedy is revivalist eclectic in style and similar to that of the cinemas of the 1920s. A richly subdued version of Hollywood Medieval or Mediterranean Gothic, the auditorium is oval in shape and painted after the Gothic fashion to suggest an atmosphere of antiquity. Beams are rendered and painted to resemble Italian woodwork. The frieze beneath a piece of trompe loeil, represents a sombre arcade of Romanesque arches lightened by a bright display of coats of arms picked out in gold and red. The Medieval effect is enhanced by the large chandeliers of iron and the panelling reaching from the floor to the dress circle balcony. The two boxes are decorated in a Classical manner and are crowned by arches supported by unadorned columns. The walls are stucco, reminiscent of California. While the main part has the feel of Venice and Spain, the first floor lobby is an exercise in the Jacobean style with a richly covered ceiling and furnished with Jacobean settees and chairs reminiscent of Hollywood. Again the walls are California stucco and a Moorish element is introduced with a tiled fountain (now no longer playing). The well proportioned and modulated design is an architectural interpretation of the popularity and glamour associated with theatre.
The Comedy Theatre site has had theatrical associations since 1854, when George Coppin had a prefabricated iron theatre manufactured in Manchester, England and imported for erection on this site. Coppin called it the Olympic Theatre, but to the people it was universally known as the Iron Pot. The use of the building for entertainment lapsed until the 1890s when the Australian Hippodrome operated on the site. Prior to the Olympic, the site was occupied by Rowes Circus for two years. Comedy Theatre was constructed in 1927-28 for theatrical entrepreneurs J C Williamson Ltd whose dominance of and success in theatre ownership during the early twentieth century is evident from the construction of the Comedy Theatre and nearby Her Majestys Theatre, six years later.Architect: Walkley and Hollinshead
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