Playbox Theatre

Playbox Theatre is a theatre company and was a venue in Melbourne.

The Playbox Theatre Company was dedicated to supporting Australian playwrights and producing new Australian plays throughout the 1980's. Originally called "Hoopla!", it was housed in Melbourne's Playbox Theatre in Exhibition Street before it was destroyed by fire in 1984.

The CUB Malthouse has been home to the Playbox Theatre, its resident theatre company since opening in 1990. In 2005 the organisation has underwent a renaming and is now The Malthouse Theatre

CUB Malthouse
113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Ph +61 3 9685 5111
Malthouse Theatre |

Malthouse Theatre

Melbourne's second major theatre company has its home at the old Carlton & United Brewery Malthouse in South Melbourne.

Founded as Hoopla Productions in 1976 by Carillo Gantner, Graeme Blundell and Garrie Hutchinson - the latter two of whom, drawing on their experience as members of the Australian Performing Group, wished to extend its experimental and nationalist aims to the mainstream - it became the Playbox Theatre Co. in 1978.

In 1990 the company entered into partnership with Monash University but this ended in 1999 and a new partnership was begun with Victoria University in 2000.

Its original two city theatres were destroyed by fire in 1984. After a period without a permanent base it moved in 1990 into the refurbished Malthouse, with two new theatres, the Beckett and the Merlyn, designed by John Beckett.

Its artistic directors have included Rex Cramphorn, James McCaughey, Peter Oyston, Carillo Gantner, Aubrey Mellor and Michael Kantor. The company changed its name to Malthouse Theatre in 2004.

From the start the Malthouse gave preference to contemporary Australian work and gradually moved towards producing exclusively Australian plays, most of them new work. Under new director Michael Kantor, this policy has changed to encompass international work of relevance to Australia.

The company has thus played an extremely important role in the development of Australian writing for the stage, offering dramaturgical advice, building new audiences and taking risks with unknown writers and material.

The quality of its productions has been mixed, but many important Australian playwrights have begun their careers with Malthouse productions.

Hoopla, changing its name to the PLAYBOX THEATRE COMPANY, operated from 1977-1984 at the PLAYBOX THEATRE in Exhibition Street, and also from 1978 at the tiny UPSTAIRS THEATRE, which concentrated on experimental work. In February 1984 both venues were destroyed by fire, and the company's productions were transferred to the St. Martin's Theatre, the Studio at the Victorian Arts Centre and the Alexandra Theatre at Monash University.

This relationship with the university was formally acknowledged in 1990 with a name change to the PLAYBOX THEATRE CENTRE OF MONASH UNIVERSITY. By a somewhat circuitous route Playbox now has its administrative and artistic centre in the intimate MALTHOUSE theatre complex in Sturt Street, South Melbourne.

Carlton and United Breweries donated the site and buildings, including a three storey red brick malthouse built in 1892, to the theatre company following the destruction of the Playbox. The conversion of the building to a theatre won the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award in 1992. It opened in March 1990 with the one hundred and ninety eight seat BECKETT THEATRE (named after the company's designer John Beckett), a foyer, gallery, bar and offices. A second theatre, the MERLYN (named after Dame Merlyn Myer) is now in an adjoining building. The Merlyn is a wider space than the Beckett and seats about four hundred people. Each theatre has upstairs galleries on three sides, with a stage configuration which is moderately flexible, although it favours the thrust layout.


Katharine Brisbane (ed.) Entertaining Australia: an illustrated history (Sydney, Currency Press, 1991).
Philip Parsons (general ed.) with Victoria Chance, Companion to Theatre in Australia (Sydney, Currency Press in association with Cambridge University Press, 1995).

❊ Address & Contact ❊

Playbox Theatre⊜ Exhibition Street Melbourne | Map
Exhibition StreetMelbourne

❊ Web Links ❊

Playbox Theatre,_Melbourne

❊ Also See... ❊

Melbourne Theatres

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