Suburban Theatre Shines

The Sydney suburb of Cronulla is famous for being the home of the novel Puberty Blues, and notorious as the place where a race riot erupted in 2005.


David Spicer reports.


I was one of the few reporters on the scene that day, when a mob set upon anyone with brown skin. I recall a protester running past me, holding his hand up for an approving high-five. When I declined to reciprocate, he slapped my stomach. 


Not so well known is the fact that a community theatre called Arts Theatre Cronulla *permanently occupies a substantial shopfront street frontage just 100 metres from the beach.

When the riot erupted, the company had a matinee performance of the comedy Volpone on stage. A long-standing member, Neil Moulang, recalls the tension of the day, and the number of people coming from other suburbs for the protest. The show did go on, but patrons had to steer clear of the Police and troublemakers on the way out.

Now in 2024, the Arts Theatre was staging the comedy Mother and Son by Geoffrey Atherden, which I represent, and I ventured back to the shire to see a performance.

Photographer: Jeffrey Gall.

Inside is a little paradise for a community theatre company. In real estate crazy Sydney, the Cronulla School of Arts is a substantial building on Surf Road, dedicated to community groups and activities, surrounded by restaurants and shops paying big rent.

The Arts Theatre recently celebrated its 60th birthday with a party in their large, sparkling foyer. Their 130-seat theatre has excellent acoustics, a dressing room big enough for 18 actors and room for set, prop and costume storage.

Before Covid, every production sold out and the company is now getting back to 80 percent capacity.

No actors, directors or crew get paid, and with such a strong business model you can understand how they were able to pull together a million dollars plus for recent renovations. They included a lift to a second storey which has a little theatrette and rooms for local craft clubs.

The lift also has the capacity for a third storey, which they will get around to building one day. 

As the company is the sole occupant of the theatre, director Neil Moulang had a leisurely three weeks to build his impressive set for Mother and Son put together by 12 volunteers.

It was a nicely acted performance by a diverse cast of new and experienced cast led by veterans with 20 years plus experience Lynda Leavers (Maggie) and David Wrightson (Arthur).


Mother and Son played until March 23 at the Arts Theatre and nine other productions around Australia later this year.


*The Cronulla School of Arts Committee was established in 1903. In a close shave the venue almost reverted back to the council when the committee was disbanded in the early 1960s. So long as clubs remain active in the building, they can keep operating out of it.