21 May 2021

Victoria Theatre and Nancy Tapp

By Carol Duncan

“It’s not sad! This is the beginning of bringing the theatre back to what it will be.”

Nancy Tapp – performed at the Victoria Theatre in the 1950s
Nancy Tapp visits the Victoria Theatre in May 2021

One of the most-asked questions on Lost Newcastle is, “What’s happening with the Victoria Theatre?”

Opened in 1876, the state heritage-listed theatre was rebuilt during 1890-91 and is the oldest theatre still standing in NSW.

The extensive 1890 rebuild included a small first class hotel and the seating capacity of the theatre was increased to 1700 people across the three levels of the auditorium. Upgraded again in 1905, changes to liquor laws meant that the theatre had to close its hotel and the theatre was converted to host stage and cinema.

In 1921, the upper balcony and small hotel were removed and the dress circle was rebuilt to make the theatre more suitable for cinema screening. Hoyts took over the Victoria in 1942 and the theatre continued to show films until 1966 and the theatre itself was closed.

Eastham’s bought the building in 1966 and significant interior additions of false walls, floors and ceilings create a retail space that continue to operate until the early 1990s.

The Victoria Theatre remained shuttered for over a decade but the purchase of the theatre by Century Venues in 2015 means that a new life for this grand old dame is hopefully not too far away.

Heritage listed by the NSW State Government in 1999, the Victoria Theatre is the oldest theatre building still standing in NSW and has worked as a theatre screening silent films, vaudeville and theatre and remains virtually intact. The installation of the retail spaces covered the interior features of the theatre and, fortunately, ensured their preservation.

The City of Newcastle has approved the Development Application lodged by the new owner and work has already commenced to clean decades of rubbish and detritus from the building, and to remove the retails additions.

Further reading on the plans for The Vic from Century Venues: https://www.victoriatheatre.com.au/

Carol Duncan spoke with Nancy Tapp who performed at the Victoria as a young dancer in 1951’s ‘Bless The Bride’ and again in 1953 in ‘Oklahoma’.

Nancy Tapp who performed in the Victoria Theatre in the 1950s

Listen to Nancy in this interview talking about her memories of the Victoria and why she’s excited for its future.