Backward Glance – Lights, Action, Greasepaint

Theatre is one of the most remarkable mediums of performance.

It’s a collaborative art that brings diverse people together, working harmoniously to stage performances.

Amateur theatre is performed purely for the enjoyment of participants and the audience, with proceeds distributed to the community.

The love of theatre has a rich history in Nambour.

In 1913, the Nambour Chronicle report that the Nambour Dramatic Club had made a good start staging “The Private Secretary” – a side-splitting comedy in three acts.

In 1923, the Nambour Comedy Company performed a light comedy, “Just like Judy”.

The play was presented under the direction of Mrs Caine with proceeds going to the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall.

The review in the Nambour Chronicle congratulated the company on the high standard of acting.

Mr EC Lishman played the part of Peter Keppel “Put-it-off Peter” with great ability, invoking amusement throughout the play in his persistent effort to put off his marriage to Miss G Moy, “Beatrice”.

Mrs Caine, “Judy” played her role admirably with captivating style.

Posing as an artist’s model, she deceived Peter into believing they were married while he was suffering from “brain trouble”. The feigned bond later developed into one of reality.

Over the years, the Society started to struggle as Eileen Rowell recalled: “They realised they needed something more than people’s attention. They would perform a ballet and it was hilarious. These 108kg men, with their hairy chests and little ballet costumes, wigs and sandshoes, (because there were no ballet shoes big enough) did not have to do much to make the whole audience scream with laughter. However, people’s attention started to wain as they exhausted all their tricks, so thought turned to a society that could put on shows that were more interesting to the general public.”

In December 1945, 25 people attended the initial meeting of the Nambour Amateur Theatrical Society and the NATS was born.

An eagerly awaited first production was staged in June 1946, after three months of rehearsals.

Mrs I Small and Mr Jack Collins produced “Mr Fothergill Joins the Angels” and Mr Ken Hartley supervised the second one act play “The Twelve Pound Look”.

Mr Bert Marks was the stage manager, Miss Norma Edwards was in charge of the ballet and Mr Alex Foreman was in charge of lighting effects.

The Society also had its own orchestra with an ensemble of 16 musicians.

More than 800 patrons attended the initial performance in the Diggers Hall. They expressed appreciation for the excellent local talent in song, dance, comedy sketches and orchestral selections.

In September 1946 the NATS held their first annual ball.

The Nambour Chronicle reported the balls provided fun and frolic for more than 200 guests, hosting some of the first fancy dress balls held since pre-War days.

The variety of costumes provided the judges, Mrs A Cheesman, Miss P Lowe, and Mr J Grimstead with much to ponder on.

A gaily decorated hall and stage provided atmosphere to a night of revelry, which reached its peak with the entry of “Ferdinand, the Bull” during the grand parade.

“Ferdinand” kept the ladies guessing and the person who guessed his weight correctly would be presented with a tin of condensed milk.

Unfortunately, the time taken for all entries in the weight-estimating competition to be judged was more than Messrs N Fryar and K Hartley’s legs could bear. The not so ferocious “beast” was awarded first prize for the most humorous costume.

The Society established itself over the following years with productions staged in the Old Diggers Hall until 1958.

Eileen Rowell joined the Society in 1950 as one of the makeup artists. She remembered the hall, a wide-open space with galvanised iron walls and galvanised iron roof with many cracks which made it cool in summer but freezing in winter.

There were no dressing rooms so the performers had a tent out the back. There were two entries to the stage. Crawford’s chooks were taking up roost on the right-hand-side entrance.

If you had to go from one side of the stage to the other, you’d have to go down one set of stairs, walk behind the stage and up the other side – often disturbing the roosting chooks.

The noise of scattering chickens resounded right through the theatre.

The canvas seats were also in terrible condition. The canvas had sagged so much that patrons would bring their own cushions so they could see the stage.

In the daylight, marks left by the brilliantine hair oil men used could be seen on the back of the seats.

NATS produced many great performances over the years and in 1954 “Blithe Spirit” was heralded as its best performance since its inauguration.

Mr Tom Manefield produced the play and the cast – Mrs Sylvia Smith, Mrs Val Day, Mrs Margaret Young, Mrs Pat Crossingham, Misses Nan Kenyon and Mary McGhie, Messrs Doug Phillips and Ross Florence were applauded throughout the play.

The makeup artistry of Mesdames Eileen Rowell and Marcia Hayne was also praised.

Bouquets and gifts were showered on the performers.

The Society continued to stage plays with great success including “The Glass Slipper”, “The Boyfriend”, “Salad Days”, “South Pacific” and the world premiere of “Harry” by local playwright and actor Brian Cox in 1980.

The Society had a rollercoaster ride for many years without a permanent home, until finally it acquired its own little theatre in Blackall Terrace. Sadly it burnt down in August 1972.

In 1974 the Society moved to the Yandina School of Arts.

The Blackall Terrace site was sold giving the Society enough money to build.

In 1980, a lease was signed with council and the Society began building its own theatre in Lind Lane. It is fondly remembered as the old Lind Lane Theatre.

Later, a new building was constructed at 16 Mitchell Street and Lind Lane Theatre was officially opened by Australia’s most renowned playwright, David Williamson.

The sound of the cheers and applause continues to resound today, fortunately without the sounds of scattering chooks.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image details

Hero image – Nambour Amateur Theatrical Society’s float in the Rodeo procession, Currie Street, Nambour, 13 May 1972

Image 1 – Nambour Amateur Theatrical Society members performing the play ‘Granite’, Nambour, July 1959

Image 2 – Nambour Amateur Theatrical Society members rehearsing for a new theatrical performance, Nambour, 1960s

Image 3 – Makeup artist applying make up for a Nambour Amateur Theatre production, Nambour

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