Eight of Victoria’s best regional theatres
From live music to epic shows, these world-class Victorian theatres take centre stage.
There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in a theatre performance or sitting in awe as you watch the ballet. And you don’t need to be in the city to get this culture hit. Across Victoria, the art and performance scene is thriving, with regional venues showing off local talents as well as drawing in acclaimed touring acts.
Here are some of the best theatres across regional Victoria.
Bendigo’s striking Ulumbarra Theatre is housed in the former Sandhurst Gaol, which operated from 1863 until 2004. Image: Joel Bramley.
Best theatres in regional Victoria
Her Majesty’s Ballarat
This theatre is something of an institution and has been standing proud on Ballarat’s Lydiard Street for more than 140 years. Since 1875 Her Majesty’s Theatre has been drawing in performances from some of Australia’s leading theatre companies and artists (including the country’s longest-running eisteddfod, Royal South Street Society).
The theatre, which recently underwent major renovations to restore it to its former glory, re-opened its doors on 13 September. If the building’s legacy isn’t enough, marvel at the design, featuring a double balcony and interior designed by William Pitt, the architect behind Melbourne’s Princess Theatre.
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Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
Formerly Sandhurst Gaol, Ulumbarra Theatre was redeveloped in 2004 to become the impressive arts and community venue it is today. The name means ‘gather together’ in the language of the local Dja Dja Wurrung people, and it couldn’t be more fitting.
The auditorium fits 950 guests, treating them to international ballets, orchestral performances, concerts and nationally touring theatre performances, including hosting the world premiere of Ned: A New Australian Musical in 2016. Guests can also visit Cell 26 before performances, a former jail cell that tells the story of the prison.
The Capital, Bendigo
Not letting Ulumbarra get all the attention, Bendigo is also home to the Capital Theatre, a stunning Victorian-era, National Trust-listed building right in the heart of the city. (While you’re there, history buffs will also love Bendigo Tramways tours.)
Once the second-biggest hall in Victoria behind the Melbourne Town Hall, it’s been home to some of Victoria’s best theatre performances for more than 100 years, attracting both Australian and internationally acclaimed performers. With more than 200 performances each year, there’s something for everyone.
Geelong Arts Centre
Formerly Geelong Performing Arts Centre, the Geelong Arts Centre has a fresh new name but maintains the top-class level of performance locals and visitors have come to expect.
Hosting more than 200,000 visitors each year, Geelong Arts Centre is home to a diverse program of live performances, from the likes of Tony Award-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George to concerts from upcoming artist Amy Shark and Deakin university performances, in line with the centre’s appreciation for highlighting local talent.
A current $38.5 million redevelopment on the Ryrie Street side of the centre will add four additional performance and rehearsal spaces to expand the performance area.
Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool
In the coastal town of Warrnambool, the Lighthouse Theatre offers an impressive line-up for the culture hungry. The theatre underwent a $9.3 million redevelopment in 2012, in a bid to inject new life into the region’s performing arts scene. This year alone it has offered live performances ranging from an aerial acrobatic show to a cabaret about gin, so it’s safe to say it’s worked.
No matter your interests, there’ll be something to tickle your fancy (just ask comedian and former local, Dave Hughes).
Horsham Town Hall
Not to be overshadowed by its bigger regional neighbours, Horsham is home to an impressive theatre, gallery and heritage hall in Horsham Town Hall. Balancing local performers with acts from around the country and overseas, it has made a name for itself as a thriving arts centre.
The recently redeveloped theatre boasts a fully accessible 500-seat capacity, with a full fly tower and the latest in audiovisual technology.
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West Gippsland Arts Centre
The major arts and performance hub for the region, West Gippsland Arts Centre began as a vision shared by a small group of passionate locals.
From nationally touring musicians like Lady Beatle to performances from the Victorian State Ballet, the venue sees a wide variety of shows, as well as hosting community events to support the growing region.
Plus, in 2018 the humbly sized venue completed a $14.1 million redevelopment, boosting the seat capacity from under 500 to 750 and increasing accessibility, honouring the original vision of the centre (an endeavour previously hindered by a lack of funds).