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Griffin Theatre Company Will Purchase and Revamp Longtime Home the SBW Stables Theatre, Thanks to a $5 Million Philanthropic Donation

After more than 40 years of groundbreaking plays at the venue, the Griffin Theatre Company will now be the sole owners of the SBW Stables Theatre.
By Ben Hansen
August 15, 2022
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By Ben Hansen
August 15, 2022
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Griffin Theatre Company has been showcasing beloved and boundary-pushing stage productions out of the SBW Stables Theatre for over 40 years. Since Dr Rodney Seaborn saved the theatre from demolition in the mid-80s, Griffin has called the Darlinghurst venue home, playing a pivotal role in Sydney's theatre scene ever since.

Thanks to a landmark $5 million donation from The Nielson Foundation, the theatre company is set to purchase its longtime home from The Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation, providing Griffin with ongoing stability and support for the major renovations planned for the space. Following this revamp, which has been supported by a multimillion-dollar grant from the NSW Government, the SBW Stables Theatre will boast a 44-percent increase in capacity, full accessibility, improved dressing rooms and a new rehearsal space.

"There have been many times over the last four decades that this mission has been threatened in some way or another... Be it funding cuts, threats of eviction, or just the general trials and tribulations of staging plays in a 100+ year old horse stables," Griffin Theatre Company Artistic Director Declan Greene said. "In this landmark moment in the company's history, the Neilson's have made it possible to hold this mission in perpetuity. This is an extraordinary gift to the current custodians of Griffin, and to our predecessors. But it is also a gift to the generations of playwrights and theatre artists who are yet to be nurtured and supported by a company that is, in so many ways, the theatre of first chances."

The SBW Theatre, Dr Seaborn and John Bell

Griffin has been central to the theatre and arts ecosystem in Australia across its 42 years. Actors including Cate Blanchett and Jacqueline McKenzie cut their teeth on the SBW Stables Theatre stage. Australia's most produced contemporary play Away by Michael Gow was first performed at the theatre. And, hit local films Lantana, The Boys, The Heartbreak Kid and Holding the Man were all based on productions by the company.

Griffin Chair Bruce Meagher said: "The generosity of the Neilson's is truly extraordinary, with many arts companies benefiting from their support. It's hard to imagine another company where the impact of that support will be as profound as for Griffin."

"After the turmoil and disruption of lockdowns and restrictions in the last few years, we believe that opportunities for connection and exploration are more important than ever,"  proclaimed the Nielson Foundation's Kerr Neilson. "Theatre allows people to explore new perspectives, stories and ideas in ways that digital media will never."

If you want to head down to catch a performance at the SBW Stables Theatre, acclaimed playwright Dylan Van Den Berg is bringing the debut of his new work Whitefella Yella Tree to Griffin from Friday, August 19. The heartwrenching story tells the tale of a pair of Indigenous teenagers who meet and fall in love in the early 19th century just as their country is being invaded by white settlers.

Render of the SBW Stables Theatre revamp

The Griffin Theatre Company is based out of the SBW Stables Theatre at 10 Nimrod Street, Darlinghurst. Head to the theatre company's website to view all of its upcoming shows.

Top image: Ken Leanfore

Published on August 15, 2022 by Ben Hansen
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