Slings and arrows for `Hamlet' production

The cast of Little Scorpion's production of Hamlet test the air of Port Chalmers last night, but hope they will have a suitable indoor venue for next week's theatrical performance. Photo: Linda Robertson
The cast of Little Scorpion's production of Hamlet test the air of Port Chalmers last night, but hope they will have a suitable indoor venue for next week's theatrical performance. Photo: Linda Robertson
To be or not to be - whether an independent Dunedin theatre company will be able to stage its production of Hamlet next week - that is the question.

The Shakespearean play, as interpreted by Little Scorpion Productions, was scheduled to begin a four-day season at the Anteroom in Port Chalmers next Wednesday.

But on Monday, the company learned the performance could not go ahead because such a theatrical event did not comply with Dunedin City Council building regulations for a residential building.

That decision left Little Scorpion struggling to secure another venue, following two months of uncertainty after the Fortune Theatre closed unexpectedly at the beginning of May.

The show was originally conceived as part of a collaborative double bill with the Fortune's Macbeth.

Little Scorpion Productions' founder Kerry Lane said she remained hopeful of finding a suitable space for the play before next Wednesday.

One of the problems for the company was they could not extend the time of the play's run, as several of the actors had other commitments and would not be available.

''This is our fourth venue and a bunch of actors have already had to drop out,'' Ms Lane said.

''We have been working for a very long time on this show. There are over 30 people in our cast and crew, including five high school students, who are all devastated at the prospect of cancelling.

''We are desperately seeking a new venue, and trying to remain hopeful over the next few days that our hard work will not have been wasted.''

Until 2010, the Wickliffe Tce building housing the Anteroom was an old Masonic Lodge, essentially a private club. But in 2010, the owner of the building obtained a change of use. The building became residential, with a home-based activity.

DCC building compliance officer Cory Barnes said yesterday the decision to disallow Hamlet from being staged at the Anteroom was not made lightly.

''We don't want to stop the production, but we just can't allow it to be staged in this venue. Public safety has to be paramount,'' he said.

He ''fully sympathised'' with the theatre company and the situation in which they found themselves, and recognised it was not their doing.

He had become aware of the situation relating to the status of the Anteroom building only last week when he received a liquor licence application for the event.

The Anteroom wanted to have 70 people in the lounge of a residential building - 50 ticket purchasers and about 20 cast and production members - and it was ''just not appropriate'', Mr Barnes said.

Enough concerns were raised that the council ''had to say no''.

He was not saying the Anteroom could not work as a venue ''if the appropriate work was carried out'', Mr Barnes said.

And Ms Lane said the company hoped to work with the DCC in trying to find a suitable alternative venue for Hamlet.

-By Kay Sinclair

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