Like thousands of other Melburnians, I remember scuttling from one backstage holding room of Hamer Hall to another, wearing some kind of felt costume hat, nervously awaiting my five minutes of shared glory for an annual school production.
So it is with a sentimental kind of curiosity that I attend the launch of the 2012 Arts Centre Melbourne season held in the partially renovated Hamer Hall, where I get a first-hand look at the progress of a works program that has kept the Hall shuttered since late 2010.
It’s a fascinating experience. Below the top-tier of the circle, where the launch is held, the view drops three stories into a great hollow, all exposed concrete slabs and scaffolding, where the stage and backstage areas should be. Suspended above the hole is the new "tech zone", a massive rust-brown box that houses the lighting and stage effects and which can also be used to augment the hall’s acoustics.
Ross Turner, the artist who painted the original walls almost 30 years ago, has been brought back in with his team to recreate the same polychrome sandstone façade. As for the seating, while the legroom remains as it was, the seats themselves have been widened.
When Hamer Hall reopens on 28 July 2012, it will host a season including the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, a debut opera from the fascinating Cape Town Opera, the Quatsi Trilogy performed by Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble, and Nitin Sawhney – a UK performer and producer who fuses jazz, trip-hop orchestra and plenty else besides.
In launching the 2012 season, Judith Isherwood, Arts Centre Melbourne Chief Executive, dryly punned that the redevelopment of Hamer Hall was a "constructive" step toward reinvigorating the Arts Centre as cultural hub, locally and internationally, laying the "building blocks" for a more engaged Arts Centre.
The Art Centre is also using the announcement of Hamer Hall's re-opening to spruik its new-look branding. You'll notice it's now trading under the moniker Arts Centre Melbourne, or ACM for short, and has a flash new spire-inspired logo to boot. Usefully, they're also now producing a single program which lays out a calendar for all Arts Centre events, whether ACM produced or not.
Among the other ACM events announced for 2012 are Robert Lepage's epic Lipsynch – all nine hours of it, the international hit War Horse presented by the National Theatre, Drought and Rain a remount of Ea Sola's politically significant dance piece from 1995 and the play Sayonara by Hirata Oriza.
Sign up to our monthly arts newsletter