On with the show

Ken Jones, Chair of Rex Theatre Charlton, believes the recent history of Charlton’s Rex Theatre would make an ideal movie script in itself:

“…old cinema saved by community during harsh drought, experiences renaissance in interest and support, only to succumb to abrupt closure resulting from damage inflicted by two successive major floods. There is drama, heartache, uncertainty – is there a future for the historic building?”

There certainly is a future, and a story, made possible by the resilience of the Board, the volunteers who operate this community owned venue, and the extended community across Victoria who have helped this theatre into its new era.

On the night of 14 January 2011, the Rex had over one metre of water flow through the building. Flooring, carpet, wiring, the piano, the stage and the seating were all badly damaged. While the giant clean up efforts were under way, Scouts Victoria got involved and tried to revive community spirits with the running of a free movie screening powered by generators.

The shadowboard outside the theatre read “The Rex will Rebound” and renovations began in August 2011. Support from multiple sources began to provide hope for getting the Rex theatre back up and running, with new improvements to boot. FRRR hosted a Not-for-Profit Fundaising Account (formerly known as a Donation Account) for the project, providing administration and a channel through which funding could be collected.

Adjoining shops were turned into a candy bar and a tiny gallery and gathering area. An all access lift was installed to facilitate entry for disabled patrons. One of the theatre’s most eye-catching features – the stunning waterfall stage curtain, has been replaced, along with new wall-mounted lighting brackets – “…a finishing touch which draws the internal space together and heightens the sense of anticipation of what the theatre is about to present” (Ken Jones). Both aesthetics and practicalities were taken on board for this final aspect, with the upward lift of the curtain complimenting the vertical lines of the auditorium and removing it from potential threat in the event of future flooding.

On the re-opening night of the Rex Theatre there was sustained applause as the new curtain was raised. What a wonderful achievement for the community - despite disaster, the show will go on.

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