3 Aug 2015

Lyttelton theatre company makes comeback

5:26 am on 3 August 2015

Once a hotbed of creativity, the port town of Lyttelton has been making do, ever since the Christchurch earthquakes destroyed most of its theatres and live venues.

One of the town's most popular attractions, the Loons Theatre Company was largely disbanded after its home at the Lyttelton Working Mens' Club was destroyed.

It is now hoping to make a comeback thanks to a collaboration with the local primary school.

Even without a permanent home, the Loons Theatre director, Mike Friend, has continued running the Loons in Schools programme, teaching kids acting skills and putting on productions each year.

But what started out as a way to keep working between gigs has turned into a long-term proposition.

Mike Friend has continued running the Loons in Schools programme.

Mike Friend has continued running the Loons in Schools programme. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The company's now looking to share a rebuilt hall with Lyttelton Primary, as a new base for the cabaret and theatre productions the Loons were so famous for before the earthquakes.

"I can then ring up my theatre company and say we've got a two week rehearsal period, three week season, x amount of dollars, are you interested?

"And during that period there's the potential to rehearse new work. It's as simple as that really, if you've got a base, you've got somewhere to train and somewhere to work."

The hall will be used by the school for sports and assemblies during the day and at night will be transformed into the new home for the theatre company.

Theatre director Mike Friend taking students through their paces.

Theatre director Mike Friend taking students through their paces. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Mike Friend said being at a school would require everybody being on their best behaviour, at least until the lights go up.

"Obviously we won't be able to have the same drunken parties we used to have at the Loons. It won't be like a burlesque bar. It won't have that bohemian aspect the Loons had. It'll be a much more formal place where people can come and have a night out at the theatre and then go and have a good meal somewhere in Lyttelton."

Mr Friend said his work with the kids fed into the work he did with his professional actors.

"You can kind of find out what works and you can experiment a bit. Like I'm going over to England this Christmas and they've offered me two shows and a show I've developed with the kids here, I'm tempted to see if I can develop it to the next level with professionals."

With the new location will come a new name for the company, which will in future be known as the Lyttelton Arts Factory, or Laf for short.

The Factory Manager Darryl Cribb said before they could start putting on shows at the yet to be built school hall, they needed to raise close to $400,000 for retractable seating, lights and sound equipment.

"We're up to the eyeballs in work and preparation and fundraising and co-ordinating everything but at the same time it's really exciting. We're just starting to see things coming through such as designs so when you start seeing what it's going to look like, then wow it's going to be cool."

The Lyttelton Arts Factory is hoping to put on its first show in June next year.

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