New regional theatre gets $3.3M green light

The Borderville Studio Theatre will expand the Flying Fruit Fly Circus’ existing headquarters with a custom-built performance space for circus arts.
A man wearing glasses smiles as three young jugglers throw their clubs around him.

A $3.3 million investment from the NSW Government’s Creative Capital fund will support the construction of a new 100-seat studio theatre in Albury.

Announced today by NSW Minister for Regional Youth and the Arts, the Hon. Ben Franklin MP, together with the Member for Albury Justin Clancy, the Borderville Studio Theatre will be located within the current Flying Fruit Fly Circus (FFFC) site in South Albury.

Its construction represents the largest venture undertaken by the national youth circus since their training and administration facility was built in 2010.

‘The Flying Fruit Fly Circus extension is an important arts infrastructure project that will shape Albury as the premier destination for the development and presentation of contemporary circus works in NSW,’ the Minister said in a statement.

‘Cultural equity is at the heart of the NSW Government’s Creative Capital program, and thanks to the $72 million investment, more projects like this can realise their ambition of providing more people with access to world-class arts and culture, no matter where they live in the state,’ Franklin added.

Artist’s render of the Borderville Studio Theatre, pictured right, at the existing Flying Fruit Fly Circus HQ. Image: JWP Architects.

Justin Clancy MP said the Albury community welcomed the NSW Government’s investment to support quality arts venues that will boost tourism and the local economy.

‘This important investment will advance and innovate the arts in Albury while creating extraordinary circus works for audiences across NSW,’ he said.

Today’s announcement in Albury follows a similar announcement made by the Minister yesterday in Dubbo, which sees $1 million from the Creative Capital fund allocated towards a lighting upgrade at the Dubbo Regional Theatre and Convention Centre.

A dedicated space for circus

As previously detailed by ArtsHub, the Borderville Studio Theatre will provide a dedicated space for the development of new contemporary circus works, providing a new learning space for the full-time students of the FFFC, where the technical and production elements of the artform can be taught and practiced.

It will also be a national asset for the circus and physical theatre sector, which continues to lack accessible, equipped and affordable spaces.

Flying Fruit Fly Circus CEO, Richard Hull, said: ‘This is the next evolution of our company. In our 43-year history we’ve never had a permanent space in which to develop and show work with all the essential technical elements of our craft, so this is a significant milestone.

‘But it’s not just about us; we are building a national asset for our circus and physical theatre sector. Our expanded facilities will have a positive economic impact for Albury, creating short-term and long-term employment, and be at the heart of our creative community. It will contribute to our region’s growing reputation as a cultural hub and is a terrific vote of confidence in our company from the NSW government. We’re very grateful for their support,’ Hull said. 

CEO Richard Hull, Justin Clancy MP, Minister Ben Franklin, Artistic Director Anni Davey and students from the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Image supplied.

The theatre has designed for a close-up circus experience, reflecting the type of rooms and spaces many FFFC graduates work in at the start of their professional careers. Designed specifically for circus, it will have a flexible floor space of 24 x 10 metres, a height of 8 metres, and retractable seating for 100.

The theatre will also be equipped with state-of-the-art rigging, lighting, sound and video systems. The project will be completed with two dressing rooms and a new workshop.

A hub for innovation

With the addition of the Borderville Studio Theatre the FFFC will become a connected hub for innovation, where an original idea can be explored, expanded, rehearsed, refined and performed across multiple spaces under one roof. These original performance works will have a future life for festivals and event programming across the country.

Flying Fruit Fly Circus Artistic Director, Anni Davey, said: ‘The Flying Fruit Fly Circus is the engine room of contemporary circus in Australia, training new generations of artists to innovate and develop their artform. A properly equipped creative space enhances our ability to support new, emerging and established artists, ensuring that Australian contemporary circus continues to be the best in the world.’

Read: Circa expands into Cairns with new First Nations ensemble

The construction of the Borderville Studio Theatre is a $3.9 million project in total. Further financial and in-kind support will come from the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Albury City Council, Joss Construction, and JWP Architects, valued in total at $600,000.

The new theatre is one of 23 projects funded under the Medium to Large Projects category as part of the $72 million Creative Capital fund.

The Borderville Studio Theatre is due to be completed by September 2023.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts