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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT with Shane Cortese

The Pumphouse a Favourite

I would like to spend a bit of time writing about one of my favourite boutique theatres. Nestled on the banks of Lake Pupuke off Manuere Avenue lies The Pumphouse Theatre.

Opened in 1977 after an extensive refurbishment, with support from amateur dramatic groups and local residents, and overseen by the North Shore Theatre and Arts Trust (formed with the task of raising money and planning the restoration) the theatre and gallery complex is a vibrant and beautiful local theatre.

One of the more daunting tasks was bringing the building up to earthquake standard – particularly the chimney; While there was some talk of having this demolished, the engineers on the Trust fought long and hard, and with steel reinforcing around the outside, and concrete inside, it was brought up to standard.
The Pumphouse building itself, although with sound brickwork, had deteriorated with 30 years of neglect and all the fittings, doors, windows etc. had gone. The inside surfaces told their story of having been used to house a coal-fired steam engine.
Plans for a raked auditorium, stage, a backstage room above the old coal bunker, and the green room were made and begun. The lovely round-top windows and doors were preserved and the new extensions carefully matched.
The first production was onstage in 1977.
I have seen some great plays there, most memorably the debut of Tadpole Productions “The Lion In Winter”, “The Last Of the Red Hot Lovers” and Johnny Broughs one man show “The Second Test” about the 1953 NZ Cricket tour to South Africa and the Tangawhai disaster.
Another initiative I love is the regular Friday Forums where a guest speaker comes in to talk about their lives and answer questions. Past speakers have included Roger Hall, Tina Cross, Maggie Barry and Louise Wallace.
Next Month is one not to be missed where perhaps our most respected thespian George Henare is the special Guest. George will be at the theatre for Driving Miss Daisy with Annie Whittle (in itself a casting coup for Tadpole productions).
What George hasn’t experienced in the industry in New Zealand isn’t worth knowing. I have had the pleasure of working with him twice and can’t recommend enough finding some time to head along and see him not only in the play but also for a very special cup of tea and a chat when his Friday Forum
is scheduled.

See you there – Shane.

by Shane Cortese

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