Comfy Bums on Seats

How recently have you wriggled your way through a theatrical performance? Roger Pratt from Hadley Seating explains how that can become a thing of the past.

“Seating technology has changed tremendously over the last 10 to 15 years,” says Roger Pratt.

“A theatre chair is now designed ergonomically to support you. It’s not like a cinema chair, where you’ve got lots of wriggle room. The theatre chair has to hold you so that you don’t wriggle, and you don’t fall asleep.

“We specialise in manufacturing and installing high quality theatre chairs for the major theatres and performing arts centres around the country. We also have the ability to custom design and make for a theatre that requires a certain look such as Edwardian or Art Deco.”

Recently Hadley re-seated Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide. 

“We did the installation there four years ago, then recently they decided to add another gallery. We had to take out all the chairs while they did the complete interior re-build, then put the old chairs back into the high gallery and provided new chairs for the stalls and part of the dress circle, and they all had to match.” 

That was a fairly straightforward installation. “They wanted to have a red upholstery – a garnet upholstery - and a stained timber component to match other timberwork within the theatre.”

But Hadley also customises seating to match the ambience of the theatre, and the specific performance needs of the venue.

“Every job is a little bit different. We work with the architects, the interior designers and the acoustic consultants.

“For Her Majesty’s Theatre at Ballarat we designed the arm of the chair and the aisle panel of the chair to suit the period of the theatre, so that design theme went through the whole theatre.

“For the Palais at St Kilda, which is on hold at the moment because of Covid, they wanted to retain the lovely, sculpted aisle and chair stanchions. In the old days they were done in cast iron. For that theatre we’re going to replicate those in aluminium. So, we put modern seats and backs into the theatre between replicated support stanchions.”

The seating may look classic, but the seats themselves will be modern and designed for comfort.

“With old theatre chairs they used to have just foam seat cushions, but with our chairs we have what we call Elastomeric Suspension – more like a Pirelli webbing – which gives you extra comfort.

“We also specialise in air-conditioned chairs, where air is delivered through the pedestal of the chair, so all you are doing is air conditioning the area around the person rather than having to air condition the whole of the void. That’s called displacement air pedestals. The cost of air conditioning a theatre is much less using that system.”

The type of chair will also vary based on the acoustics required.

“If you’re working in a Concert Hall they want to have reverberation, so we use timber on the backs of the seats and the outer seat shell, but for spoken word, they want absorption, so we don’t have exposed timber.”

Roger Pratt - Hadley Theatre Seating -  0412 435 089.

Image: Her Majesty's Theatre, Adelaide