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Since 1970 this little theatre has seen the most innovative and exciting productions in Sydney, especially of Australian plays. It was founded by the actor John Bell and Ken Horler and his wife Lilian, who became business manager. Ken Horler, a lawyer, had been passionately interested in theatre since he and Bell were both in the Sydney University Players. The small, austere building, more than 100 years old, had been a stables for delivery and cab horses, a garage for taxis and a gymnasium. With some money from Horler, members of the proposed company worked unpaid to convert the building into a small, primitive theatre. Double coach-house doors opened into a brick-paved, barn-like foyer. A stair led to a triangular loft, two sides of which contained raked hard wooden benches. The remaining side, which formed the acting area, had a post dead-centre, supporting the low roof. Despite, or even because of these restrictions, the Nimrod mounted extraordinary productions in the theatre. It opened with Biggles, a satire on Returned Services League clubs by Ron Blair, Michael Boddy and Marcus Cooney, and it developed works by Blair, Alex Buzo and others in rough, larrikin style. Two high points were David Williamson's The Removalists, which left members of the audience as emotionally wrung out as if they had experienced police arrogance and brutality at first hand, and the memorable premiere of Peter Kenna's A Hard God.
After only three years the company decided it needed double the audience capacity of 140, and in May 1974 moved to a new theatre, now called the Belvoir Street Theatre, in Surry Hills. The old theatre was renamed the Loft for a short period during which it was rented to alternative-theatre groups. The dramatist Bob Ellis bought the theatre in late 1975 and renamed it the Stables Theatre. The Griffin Theatre Company took up permanent residence in 1980. It was still there when Ellis put the theatre up for sale in 1985. The theatre was threatened with destruction. In 1987, however, a theatrical philanthropist, Dr Rodney Seaborn, established a family foundation, the Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Foundation, to buy and improve the building. In 1988 the roof was raised-enabling patrons in the back seats to stand up straight when the performance ended - and supported with trusses to eliminate the centre-stage post. Air-conditioning was installed and the seating was made more comfortable. The early works of Grant Fraser, Michael Gow, Gordon Graham and Hannie Rayson were performed at the Stables.
|Source||Philip Parsons, Victoria Chance, Companion To Theatre In Australia, Currency Press with Cambridge University Press, Sydney, NSW, 1995|
|Citation||Katharine Brisbane, Stables Theatre, Companion To Theatre In Australia, 544|