Cornerstone of the Performing Arts Precinct
The Court Theatre is an investment in the city centre, theatre, and the wellbeing of our community.
Let us give you a round of Applause – supporting The Court Theatre is the ultimate act of creating theatre in Christchurch. Together we’re moving back into the heart of the city and creating our forever home. It will be the leading theatre space in New Zealand – a home for creative thinking, learning and performance.
More than a stage
The Court Theatre is much more than a stage and seats. We are New Zealand’s largest producing theatre company. We create high-quality productions from the ground up, designing and building our own sets, making our own costumes, and employing professional actors locally, nationally and internationally. We stage multiple major productions each year, including a flagship summer musical. We take productions on the road to show the best of New Zealand theatre to the rest of the South Island. We run regular shows including The Court Jesters’ Scared Scriptless – the oldest improvised comedy show in the country. And we are a key part of training the next generation of Christchurch performers, with an extensive education and outreach programme. We reach an audience of over 150,000 people every year. Joining the Applause for The Court Theatre is support for Christchurch’s ever-expanding cultural scene.
The Court Theatre Story
Nimble and mighty
The theatre’s rich history began in 1971 with the production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Our original location was in the Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers, though the theatre was occasionally pushed out to the Durham Street Art Gallery when the Māori Land Court needed the chamber. The gallery became an interim home in 1971 and 1972. Over the following years The Court found temporary homes in the Beggs Theatrette and the Orange Hall before settling in the Arts Centre in 1976. The Court Jesters, our professional improvisation troupe, started in the late 1980s and continues to this day. As The Court Theatre produced more and more shows and grew in popularity, we launched Court Two, a second space to produce cutting-edge theatre.
Our current home, “The Shed” in Addington, was always intended to be temporary – a safe place to create incredible theatre after the Canterbury earthquakes evicted The Court Theatre from the Arts Centre. The theatre has been the platform and stage for headline productions including Once, Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Chicago, and many others.
The Court has entered the next phase as we partner with Christchurch City Council, our supporters, and generous patrons to build a new home that will be the centre of theatre in New Zealand. It will be a truly remarkable place, continuing to provide a feast of varied theatrical works, all created and produced on-site.
What we’re building
The theatre made for everybody
The Court Theatre’s new home, arriving in 2024, will be an architectural and cultural asset to central Christchurch. The ground-breaking plans will set a new bar in international theatre design. The new space will be made for everybody; it will be an open invitation to anyone who wants to intimately share the diverse programme of The Court Theatre’s work. We will return city audiences to dedicated theatre spaces purpose-built to bring the viewer closer to our art.
The multipurpose facilities will include a main theatre with 360 seats, a family theatre seating 120 to 150, several flexible studios and a dedicated education, outreach and wellbeing space. We are building a sustainable theatre that responsibly addresses its energy consumption and carbon footprint, built to the strictest ecological principles.
The theatre will welcome a diverse community of creatives, actors, audience members and students who reflect the many faces of our city. It will bring hustle and bustle to the precinct and re-energise the city seven days a week with shows, rehearsals, and spaces available for use every day. It is an investment in the city, theatre, and the wellbeing of our community.
Our new home will be the cornerstone of central Christchurch’s Performing Arts Precinct, opposite Tūranga and bordered by Gloucester and Colombo streets. It will be an architectural and living expression of human creativity. The new Court Theatre will be an essential part of the physical and arts landscape, building on a proud 50-plus-year history of serving the Christchurch, Canterbury and New Zealand communities with excellent theatre and outreach programmes.
New Zealand’s Athfield Architects and Haworth Tompkins (London, UK) bring their combined reputation for intelligent, purposeful design to the project. Haworth Tompkins is the world’s leading architectural theatre specialist, having designed theatres for The National and Theatre Royal Drury Lane, among others. The result is a design expressively embodying manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, and warm invitation, designed to be inherently adaptable.
And yes, we are taking our pizza oven with us!