Revamped beachside venue to house new artistic program of treats

Bondi Pavilion has had the makeover of a lifetime and is now showcasing a range of cultural offerings.

After being closed for three years for substantial heritage renovation work (fortunately, the bulk of that was during the pandemic lockdown years, so disruption to normal activities was minimal), Bondi Pavilion is now well and truly open. It’s under the helm of Chris Bendall, who took over stewardship of the centre in February this year. This beachside arts pavilion, located in the heart of one of NSW’s tourist destinations, and lovingly known by locals as “the Pav”, will be hosting a wide and eclectic suite of events starting from mid-August until November. Bendall is abuzz with excitement with the imminent roll-out of his program.

‘We have this play called The End of Winter by Noëlle Janaczewska; it had its premiere at Griffin Theatre early last year, but we’ve managed to bring it here as part of its national tour. What really interests me is the conversation it has with the audience about important contemporary social issues like sustainability. In my mind, there’s nothing more important right now than looking at  how we respond to our changing climate. Janaczewska brings so much warmth and humour to this topic,’ he tells ArtsHub.

‘If you love cabaret and contemporary music, you should come and see one of Australia’s leading lights, Ursula Yovich, sharing storytelling and song, with a brilliant live band. Ursula is an outstanding First Nations artist, and as an award-winning actor, playwright and songwriter she is one of the country’s most talented performers.’

Comedy fans will be able to see Jude Perl’s musical mash-up So Fresh and Ivan Aristeguieta’s award-winning show Citizen. ‘I first saw Ivan at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival; he was hilarious and Jude is a fabulous cabaret performer,’ Bendall enthuses.

The Pav will also cater generously to kids during the September school holidays. ‘One of the things I was really keen to do when starting this role was to energise the family and young audiences’ program,’ Bendall says. ‘We have two award-winning shows. There’s one called Children are Stinky, which is super funny and has sensational acrobatics. It will give kids a chance to actually get up on stage with the circus performers to have a go. And the other one is Junkyard Beats. Think drumming on household item like bins and boxes. Kids can stick around for dynamic workshops after the show itself. I love it that there is an environmental message; the performers use recycled materials and show how you can activate and make music with anything.’ 

The Pav, he reiterates, consists of various spaces. So, alongside the 230-seat theatre, there’s a gallery exhibition space, outdoor areas, music studios and a pottery studio. There’s even a space set aside to host creative development opportunities. 

‘We just had our first Expressions of Interest round; we ended up offering places to nine different artists over the next 12 months. They will be using that space for creative development across all art forms – music, theatre, visual arts. It’s very accessible for audiences and artists alike and very visible as well, which is great. I want art to be out there and obvious to everyone. So, as people walk through the building, they can see the artists at work.’

Since its major restoration, Bondi Pavilion itself, Bendall notes, has won three major awards for its heritage restoration, architecture and landscaping. ‘So, the success of the building has been recognised, which is terrific!’ he says.

Its shining revamped exterior is therefore a perfect shell for housing the new events planned for the next few months, from the depths of winter to the first stirrings of spring.

Check out all the arts and culture events at Bondi Pavilion

Thuy On is Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was published by University of Western Australia Press (UWAP). Her next collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Twitter: @thuy_on