Show’s over at the Palace Theatre

Show’s over at the Palace Theatre
Tristan Davies

The lights are on outside the Palace Theatre on Bourke St, but the show won’t go on.

Works are almost complete on the Marriot Le Meridian Hotel development behind the facade of the once-iconic Palace/Metro Theatre, with the site now utterly stripped of any trace of its stage and its interior spaces, which were just “days away from heritage listing before being demolished in secret”.

As an unintentional nod to the cultural vandalism of the development, retro-style theatre globes have been installed under the awning of the hotel entrance, referencing a long theatre and live music history that no longer takes place on the site, thanks to the hotel development.

Peeking behind the development doesn’t make things much better, as the street sign for Amphlett Lane appears down Little Bourke St. The street sign honouring the Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett once pointed down to the brick backstage entrance of the theatre used by the band, where corridors were lined with decades of music posters.

The view now looks down towards the fire escape for the low-rise glass box, a compromise when height limits in part hoped to save the theatre were put in place squashing plans for a much larger tower.

Around the corner, the Comedy Theatre has proposed a development that involves building a new tower above and keeping the theatre operational and intact as a heritage place, showing an alternative history where the Palace was also still host to live music and theatre.

Le Meridien will most likely advertise the hotel as a vibrant part of Melbourne’s theatre district, but in reality, they’ve done little more than help a rogue developer vandalise our social and built heritage for a marginal profit. •

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