Circa Theatre was established on April 23rd 1976 by break away performers, Carolyn Henwood, Ray Henwood, Ross Jolly and Peter Hambleton. They were tired of the extravagance of the established theatre community (such as the already Downstage Theatre) and wanted to create minimalist performances. They wanted to enrich the New Zealand art and culture scene by creating art that gave space to trying to challenge the creators to focus on the story and worry less about the aesthetic. Meaning it was about what was inside the package rather than the outside.
Susan Wilson one of the founding members of the Circa council states "Those old British dinosaurs occupying the New Zealand professional theatre landscape [of the time] built large administrations, extravagant sets and costumes, and gave focus, as it were, to the cover rather than the book. We set our course away from gigantic self-perpetuating monoliths and worked to pool our resources. Our goal was to dazzle the audience with the sheer excellence of the performance – to present theatre of the highest possible standard – where economy and ingenuity took the place of money. We aimed to keep costs for sets, costumes, lights and management to a minimum so that the rewards could be equally shared by artists and practitioners"
They decided that they wanted the theatre to be cooperative, which means it allows the independent groups to put on their show, that they are not contracted to the Theatre.
When they were trying to establish the theatre the co-operative approach was frowned upon as it was not run by management. Due to this, it present the challenge of trying to get funding. Despite the lack of funding the Wellington City Council offered the Illot building. The funding that initially established and renovated Circa came out of the pockets of the original performers, technicians etc, each putting forth $100 (equivalent to $618.57). Unfortunately the council wanted to demolish the Illot building due to it's poor condition (I personally am assuming it may be due to poor earthquake condition), leaving them to change their location in 1994, moving to the Wellington water front across from Te PaPa (a museum) along the water front.
Personal Review: On December 2nd 2017 my partner and I went to see the Peter Pan pantomime by Pinky Agnew & Lorae. This was the first time I have been to the Circa Theatre to see a performance and was delighted by my experience. Upon walking in we were greeted by a cafe lounge (small and cozy, but spacious enough to not feel claustrophobic or crowded). Upon entering the stage area it was again an intimate arrangement with a small stage and projection set up. The actors utilised the stage well, setting up a background in order for entrance and exits, as well as part of the gimmicky performance. It was very enjoyable to watch, with high energy and performance. Never before have I seen so many kids gathered in one area without a single peep. Obvious enjoyment for all ages.
I was very happy with the high performance that they selected for their venue as well as the establishment itself. The staff were also very lovely and approachable, I for one not feeling any sense of suspicion or judgement from them (as I feel like I do normally at nice places such as this) Looking forward to coming back in near future to another show!