History of Javeenbah

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestJaveenbah was formed in the early 1970s by Nerang psychiatrist, Doctor Ivor Fitz-Patrick, as an outlet for local artists, potters, sculptors and writers to come together to display and sell their products.

In the late 1970s Dr Fitz-Patrick expanded his creative concept to include a performing arm with help from fellow potter Shaun Thorburn. With donations from enthusiastic locals, Javeenbah Theatre Company was born.

It was met with a great deal of hope by local actors and directors, who were growing increasingly tired of the staple diet of frothy comedies and outdated musicals being offered by other companies. It was envisaged that Javeenbah would look more to the modern and confronting play to awaken an audience’s awareness of what theatre could truly offer; a philosophy that continues to influence our choice of programming today.

Javeenbah’s first play – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman – took to the stage on 21 November 1979. Mr Thorburn directed and Dr Fitz-Patrick’s son Paul played the part of one of the hospital aides. Members created a crude stage area beneath Dr Fitz-Patrick’s old Queenslander house on the corner of Cotton and White Streets.

Legend has it that volunteers dug out the downstairs area by hand, but Paul Fitz-Patrick says the story may have been embellished over the years. Volunteers did install steel beams to support the roof and fitted seating salvaged from an auction house. With the artists and artisans working and showing upstairs, the actors performing downstairs and the thriving Bali Hut restaurant next door, Javeenbah soon drew a steady stream of locals eager for something new.

Ambitiously, Javeenbah put on seven productions in its first 12 months under the direction of Mr Thorburn. Almost immediately the performing arm with its increasing membership, began to outgrow its tiny downstairs theatre.

With a new artistic director on board, Gwen Foggon, the theatre moved up the street a little way in 1982 and settled into the Nerang Community Hall where shows were regularly staged for several years. Eventually, the impetus behind the artists and sculptors ran out, leaving only the performing arm, now a legally incorporated association, Javeenbah Theatre Company Inc.

Within the company a small team was drawn together to pursue the ultimate goal of establishing its own theatre building. With a lot of effort and the support of the local community and Gold Coast City Council, the theatre eventually relocated to the corner of Ferry and Stevens Street, where it remains today.

“Javeenbah was formed in the early 1970’s by Nerang psychiatrist, Doctor Ivor Fitz-Patrick, as an outlet for local artists, potters, sculptors and writers to come together to display and sell their products.”

It started as little more than a rehearsal space until two demountable buildings were coupled together to make a stage, auditorium and foyer. It had a warm, inviting and intimate atmosphere that was a hit with many visitors. Over the years, alterations and additions were made to the original building that saw a large foyer and bar area added, along with a permanent dressing room for the actors.

All was going well until unthinkable tragedy struck in the early hours of 20 June 2002.

Reckless vandals set fire to our beloved theatre and what had taken more than 20 years to build was gutted in a mere 18 minutes. The entire original section of the building was totally destroyed along with all theatrical props, building materials, costumes, lights – everything.

It was the scheduled closing night of the company’s production of Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. In typical Javeenbah style and spirit, the entire company, with the help of the local community, relocated the whole production a hundred metres up Ferry Street to the Senior Citizens Hall and the show went on.

Exactly 12 months to the day of the devastating fire, Javeenbah had rebuilt its premises and the cast of Ian Austin’s And So Say All of Us were standing on a stage, with a set and under lights. A magnificent effort by the management and members resulted in an even better and bigger building being created out of the ashes.

Javeenbah now mounts six productions a year that include comedy, drama and musicals and aims to produce at least one cutting-edge play per year.

The company strives to maintain the warm, inviting and intimate atmosphere that its pioneers created and to uphold the ideal of modern, up to date and confronting productions to offer audiences a truly satisfying theatrical experience.

It also cherishes its heritage. Natalie Fitz-Patrick, the widow of founder Dr Fitz-Patrick, and the theatre’s first director Shaun Thorburn are honoured Life members of the theatre and the word Javeenbah is taking from the language of local aboriginal tribes and literally means “The Meeting Place”.