Melbourne Theatre Company

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Melbourne Theatre Company (popularly known as MTC) is a theatre company based in Melbourne, Victoria. Founded in 1953, it is the oldest professional theatre company in Australia, and has its own theatre, Southbank Theatre – which houses the 500-seat Sumner and the 150-seat Lawler – located in Melbourne's Arts Precinct in Southbank. Despite being recognised as Victoria's State theatre company, it comes under the auspices of the University of Melbourne. Currently, it offers a Mainstage Season of ten to twelve plays each year, a season of new and emerging works, and an Education Season along with affiliate writers programs. It has a current subscriber base of 21,000 people and plays to a quarter of a million people annually.[1]


The Melbourne Theatre Company was founded in 1953 by John Sumner as the Union Theatre Repertory Company, based at the Union Theatre of the University of Melbourne's Student Union building. Sumner's original idea was to present a season of plays over those months when the Union Theatre was not being used by student drama societies. It was Australia's first professional repertory theatre, presenting a new play every two weeks during the season. Later, that became three weekly repertory. The first play, Jean Anouilh's Colombe, opened on 31 August 1953, starring Zoe Caldwell (who was later to have considerable success on Broadway), George Fairfax, and Alex Scott.

Over the years, MTC has championed Australian writing, introducing the works of writers such as Alan Seymour, Vance Palmer, Patrick White, Alan Hopgood, Alexander Buzo, David Williamson, John Romeril, Jim McNeil, Alma De Groen, John Powers, Matt Cameron, Ron Elisha, Justin Fleming, Janis Bolodis, Hannie Rayson, Louis Nowra, Michael Gurr, Jack Davis, Michael Gow and Joanna Murray-Smith (to mention only a few) to mainstream Melbourne audiences. The first Australian play produced by the company, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler, in 1955 was quickly recognised as an Australian classic.

Lawler had by that time succeeded Sumner as Director of the company, taking it through the 1955 and 1956 seasons. When Lawler left to perform The Doll in London, he handed the directorship to Wal Cherry, who oversaw the company from 1956 until 1959. Cherry's experimental and daring approach to theatre did much to broaden the tastes of Melbourne theatre-goers, though the company suffered at the box-office. In 1959, John Sumner returned and subsequently steered the company through twenty-eight years of growth and prosperity, watching it become, by the time he retired in 1987, the largest theatre company in Australia. Since then the company has had two artistic directors: Roger Hodgman (1987–1999), who steered MTC through the financially troublesome period of the late 1980s and 1990s, and Simon Phillips, who has been Artistic Director from 2000. In July 2010, Phillips announced his resignation from the company, effective at the conclusion of the 2011 Season. In February 2011, Brett Sheehy was named as Phillips' successor.[2] Due to his position as head of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Sheehy did not commence at MTC until 2012, controlling the 2013 Season. Robyn Nevin, Pamela Rabe, and Aidan Fennessy managed the 2012 Season.

The Melbourne Theatre Company has performed in many venues in its history, including the Russell Street Theatre, the Melbourne Athenaeum, St Martins Theatre, the Merlyn and Beckett Theatres at the CUB Malthouse, and the Playhouse and Fairfax Studio of the Victorian Arts Centre.


  • Geoffrey Hutton (1975). "It won't last a week!": the first twenty years of the Melbourne Theatre Company. Melbourne: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-17506-9. 
  • Julian Meyrick, ed. (2004). The Drama Continues: MTC the first fifty years 1953–2003. Southbank: Melbourne Theatre Company. ISBN 0-9751712-0-8. 

External links[edit]