Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mercury Theatre

Mercury Theatre on the corner of Karangahape Road and Mercury Lane is the Auckland region’s oldest theatre building. Originally named the Kings Theatre, the theatre was built in 1910 for the notable Australasian entertainment company, John Fuller & Sons. The Fullers were a well known vaudeville family who had arrived in NZ in 1895 and toured the main centres.

John Fuller realised the potential of silent movies and the need for a purpose built theatre for both live theatre and music. He obtained the land for the theatre and architect Edward Bartley was given the brief to erect the the theatre. Built in the Edwardian Baroque style, this brick building of three storeys has a  rare and regionally notable interior, which is a prime example of  original Edwardian Theatre. The building previously had three entrances including the former entrance through the Norman Ng Building on Karangahape Road, which has been more recently occupied by a series of food outlets and cafes.

Ref: 4-3408B, Mercury Theatre, c.1928, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Once completed, the theatre became a popular cinema and was the venue for the first showing of a motion picture at its opening in 1910. It is arguably the most successful live theatre venue in NZ and has been the proving ground for many well known actors, some of whom have claimed to have seen at least 3 ghosts in the building. The ghosts are said to be the old caretaker who was beaten to death in the building, a young boy who died there and a woman who materialised in the dress circle seating area.

The theatre has been reinvented numerous times over the years, becoming the Prince Edward Theatre, the Prince of Wales Theatre, the King Edward Theatre and finally the Playhouse Theatre, which showed movies and acted as a concert venue until 1960. From 1966 until 1992 it was renamed the Mercury Theatre and became the home of one of the NZ’s premier professional drama company of the same name.

Ref: 31-57639, actors in a play, Sir George Grey Special Collections

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