“I’m the incendiary device;” says Angela Antony cheerfully of her role in the establishment of the Bruce Mason Centre (and a number of other North Shore arts initiatives). “But nothing happens with just one person.”
Equally, it seems, nothing would have happened without that one person, variously described as enthusiastic, determined and indefatigable in what became a 12 year quest to ensure that the North Shore had a theatre that was big enough for full-scale music theatre events, and that could serve the needs of both professional and community performing arts.
It all started when Takapuna’s Tudor Theatre (now the Berkeley) came on the market in February 1984. Angela and her husband John were actively involved in North Shore Operatic. Its base was The Pumphouse, but it was too small for larger shows; those were presented in the hall at what was then the teacher’s training college in Akoranga Drive. “When AUT took over, we lost access to that and needed another theatre,” says Angela. “I wrote to the paper and suggested that as the Tudor was up for sale, why not do it up as a theatre to complement The PumpHouse.”
The incendiary had been thrown. “I had phone calls from just about every arts group on the Shore saying, ‘Yes, we should’.”
Angela and a few others checked out the Tudor. Verdict: not suitable. Movie theatres don’t have backstage space, the screen was set right onto the back of the building and creating the required backstage area would necessitate building out into the carpark.
But the ambitions of 30 community arts groups had been ignited, and aspirations exploded as fast as the community support. North Shore, it seemed, needed not only a larger theatre. It lacked a civic and conference centre; the proposed theatre could also serve this purpose.