University of Newcastle project brings Victoria Theatre back to life

For late nineteenth century Novocastrians the Victoria Theatre in Perkins street was the place to go to experience the city’s finest entertainment and culture. 

Almost 130 years later and 3D modelling technology will help to bring the theatre’s formative years back to life.

And they are hoping present day Novocastrians may be able to assist with information about the building. 

The team’s early work has focused on recreating the building’s exterior.

“The two upper floors of the façade were not that different from how they are today – except all the windows have now been bricked up- but the ground floor has been completely changed over the years,” team member Gaute Rasmussen said. 

Recreating the theatre’s interior is proving more challenging due to the lack of photographs and the significant modifications which occurred over time. 

“The upper circle is completely gone, and the hotel has been removed to make room for a grand foyer,” Mr Rasmussen said.

“The stairways up to the dress circle have been changed, so one of the big mysteries we’re currently trying to figure out is how the stairs were laid out.” 

Front view: A 3D recreation of what the front facade of the Victoria Theatre would have looked like in the 1890s

Front view: A 3D recreation of what the front facade of the Victoria Theatre would have looked like in the 1890s

“We know that the south entrance led to the dress circle and front stalls and the north entrance led to the upper circle and the back stalls. But we don’t know where exactly these staircases were positioned.”

Sydney firm Century Venues bought the theatre in late 2015 with plans to return it to its former glory. 

This is the first time the IT Innovation Team has recreated an historical building.

They previously recreated an archaeological trench from which thousands of Aboriginal artefacts were recovered from the Hunter Street west. 

Changing times: The theatre's original roof was modified to improve ventilation. The building's interior was also modified.

Changing times: The theatre's original roof was modified to improve ventilation. The building's interior was also modified.

University archivist Gionni DiGravio said the Victoria Theatre project exemplified how new technologies could be applied creatively to provide an insight into historical environments.

“We have a lot of details about the performances from the 1890s,” he said. 

“There are also lots of names in old records. We are hoping that some of these families might still have papers in their garages that can provide valuable details.”