THE RESTORATION BEGINS –
COMPLETION TARGET JANUARY 2013!
The Earthquakes of 4th September & 22nd February have presented the whole Canterbury region of New Zealand with challenges that none of us were contemplating and very few of us were qualified to manage, but we are learning to do so as we work through the ongoing chaos. If the aftershocks gradually ceased instead of continually re-occurring, some with occasional extreme magnitudes, we could have planned our recovery much sooner but as everyone is aware that is not the case in Christchurch unfortunately and we continue to work through some of the worst devastation that our country has experienced in recent decades.
The latest update on the current status, remedial/restoration work progress and completion timeline required to bring Isaac Theatre Royal back to a full recovery has unfortunately been further delayed due to the significant 13th June aftershocks and due to our ongoing location in the middle of the CBD red zone cordon. I can now advise there will be an extended delay in our plans for re-opening, which is now estimated to be sometime in January 2013.
The Theatre is thankfully still structurally sound and fully repairable/restorable, but our main concern is the worsening damage to the gable above the proscenium arch, which joins the main historic part of the Theatre auditorium to the recently redeveloped and modern stage & backstage area. This now requires a partial deconstruction and subsequent rebuild. As this part of the roof structure has not been weather-tight since the devastating quakes of February 22nd, unfortunately the autumn and winter weather conditions have eroded parts of the Heritage fabric around the arch, which has now partially collapsed, putting areas of our famous painted ceiling dome under threat of potential damage. This important part of the building will require extensive repair and restoration work and is a priority focus of the remedial project currently being undertaken by Naylor Love Construction under engineering supervision from Holmes Consulting Group. Securing and ‘make safe’ work has already begun to weather-proof the arch and prepare other areas of the Theatre for the long remedial process ahead.
It is a well-known fact that the existing and extensive earthquake strengthening to the Theatre Royal completed in 1999 protected the building from potentially irreparable damage after the February 22nd quakes. However new CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) and Christchurch City Council requirements will require an upgrade to the venue’s current earthquake strengthening to meet future new code compliance prior to being able to reopen to the public. The combined repairs and upgrades are estimated to take approximately 14-16 months to complete. It is a major project comprising various separate elements to properly restore our beautiful 103-year old Theatre to its previous Edwardian glory.
The Theatre auditorium requires some repair work with our Stalls floor and Stage platform both being visibly bowed. Further assessment of both will be undertaken once we can eventually empty all the water from the orchestra pit below the stage and get underneath the stalls floorboards to investigate beneath. At one stage there was over a metre of water in the pit with our grand piano floating in it along with 200 function chairs and various other bits of equipment. We expect at least a complete replacement of the stage.
Our Management offices, function kitchen, staff rooms and the famous Dress Circle ‘Poster Room’ have also unfortunately deteriorated further with the ongoing aftershocks and it is now necessary to partially deconstruct and rebuild that area. Securing work is currently underway. Finally The Gallery top level or ‘The Gods’ has suffered more damage than originally thought and will need a major re-fit including new seating, replacement ceilings and new public access stairs (above which part of the west wing staircase roof collapsed).
So unfortunately our Grand Old Lady will require a much longer recovery period than originally estimated and although most repairs are covered by our extensive insurance policy, some specific and VITAL FUNDRAISING will be required to re-strengthen and upgrade/enhance certain areas of the premises to achieve Isaac Theatre Royal’s complete revival. Obviously the past months have been soul-destroying after so much hard work over the last few years so I hope you can sympathise and work with us with us as we work through this ongoing chaos.
It makes sense to undertake as much work as we can to bring the Theatre back to its highly rated international standards while we have this long period of closure. Key project fundraising over the months to come will help ensure that when she eventually re-opens, she does so in the style and grandeur she has always been accustomed to BUT she is eventually as strong, secure and safe as possible for all our many thousands of clients and patrons around the country and world.
I hope you and your families are keeping safe through these difficult times and we look forward to your support and patronage over the months and years to come.
We WILL see you back in style one day in the not too distant future at the restored and iconic Isaac Theatre Royal.
NEIL COX – GENERAL MANAGER, ISAAC THEATRE ROYAL