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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12667

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (16:28): Today I want to mark a sad occasion and pay tribute to the Deckchair Theatre Company, which has announced that it will be closing its doors after more than 30 years of operation. Its 'end of an era' party will be held this Friday, 2 November. Deckchair, as it is known to so many people in Fremantle, is a cultural icon in Fremantle and has contributed significantly to the artistic vitality and diversity of the community through its production of theatrical performances and through its related development programs for emerging performers and writers.

Founded in 1983, the Deckchair Company is based in the heart of Fremantle at Victoria Hall and, in the past 30 years, has delivered a number of memorable and high quality Australian theatre pieces. Indeed, since opening its doors, the company has premiered over 100 multi-award winning plays to audiences locally. Some of these productions have gone on to appear before audiences across Australia and around the world. Memorable performances that I have attended in recent times have included The Danger Age, Taking Liberty, Krakouer, and the Modern International Dead, the latter of which was a play about UN peacekeeping which had a powerful impact on me, personally. Deckchair's recent production of The Fremantle Candidate presented an illuminating and poignant snapshot of a critical time in the life and career of former federal member for Fremantle, the great John Curtin.

Along with a long list of inspiring performances, Deckchair throughout its history has played an important role in nurturing new talent through its mentoring programs for aspiring thespians. The playwrights in residency program has offered free mentoring and office space for young playwrights to produce original scripts with assistance from seasoned directors while the Umbrella Program has given emerging theatre groups a venue to perform original Australian works without the burden of overhead risks. The Emerging Artists Program has fostered many young and talented performers on to bigger and better things both at home in Australia and around the world.

The closure of these programs will be a great loss to the Western Australian theatre community and future generations of Western Australian artists. I would like to acknowledge the incredible work of artistic director Chris Bendall. He has given enormously of himself, his talent and his energy over the last few years and he has done so with the assistance of a great board but under difficult and unstable circumstances. Chris Bendall's clarity, creativity and steadiness of vision has seen the production of works of great and distinctive artistic merit and brought original work into the world that has affected people and will stay with them, as art does.

Chris commented recently that, while the journey ends, the story continues through the staff, artists and crew. It is clear that all who have worked with Deckchair feel a deep affinity for the work they have undertaken. Indeed, they should be proud of their achievements. Deckchair is a theatre company of national significance and international quality. It is a terrible shame it has to close.

I want to conclude by thanking everyone who has made this wonderful theatre company a success for so many years. I sincerely hope that one day we may see it reopen its doors in one form or another.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! In accordance with standing order 143, the time for members’ statements has concluded.