Skip to main content

Take a Peek into Adelaide Festival Centre’s Performing Arts Collection

Tuesday, 28 May 2024
5 min read
The Boy From Oz 88278 2000 donated by Gannon Fox Productions Performing Arts Collection AFC Photograph by Grant Hancock 1

Take a peek into Adelaide Festival Centre’s Performing Arts Collection as it celebrates its 45th anniversary this month.

The first of its kind in Australia, the Performing Arts Collection was established in 1979 by Premier Don Dunstan.

With over 100,000 items, the Collection represents significant contributions South Australians have made on stage and behind-the-scenes to dance, opera, music, drama and music theatre.

Sword of the National Theatre

The first object recorded on the Performing Arts Collection Register was the Sword of the National Theatre, on 14 May 1979. Shakespearean actor Collet Dobson received the sword from an English actor/director in the 1870s, who told him it had been used since the 1790s.

Collet brought the sword to Australia, where it was used by actor Michael Siberry on the Dunstan Playhouse stage in a 1979 State Theatre Company production of Hamlet, after which it was donated to the Collection.

John Farnham’s Blue Leather Jeans

Australian rock legend John Farnham wore these iconic blue leather jeans on the Festival Theatre stage in the 1975 production of Night of the Stars. Farnham himself donated the jeans to the Collection in 1998.

A 100-Year Old Program found under the floorboards of Her Majesty’s Theatre

During the 2018 redevelopment of Her Majesty’s Theatre, an original, one hundred year-old, theatre program for ‘the Great Australian Drama’ Robbery Under Arms, was unearthed from beneath the floorboards.

The four-page program from 1918 is filled with fascinating local adverts, including businesses such as Bickfords and the Metropolitan Hotel (which boasted ‘Hot and Cold Water Baths’ and ‘Electric Lights throughout’).

Silver chair signed by Silverchair

The legendary Australian band Silverchair performed at Adelaide Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre on April 2, 2003. During the concert musicians Ben Gillies, Daniel Johns and Chris Joannou signed a silver chair in jest for a mechanist working on the show, who later donated the chair to the Performing Arts Collection.

Todd McKenney’s Beaded Australian Flag shirt from The Boy from Oz

The original Australian production of The Boy from Oz, directed by South Australian director Gale Edwards, was a phenomenon – playing to 1.2 million theatregoers around the country.

The beautiful beaded Australian Flag shirt was designed by Roger Kirk, and worn by Todd McKenney as Peter Allen in the ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ scene in the original Australian production at Festival Theatre in 2000.

Want to see more of the Performing Arts Collection? Check out the 1974: Stage Two exhibition at The Galleries, Adelaide Festival Centre – all items on display are from the Performing Arts Collection – including the item that started it all, the Sword of the National Theatre!

Items from the Collection can also be viewed through the year-round exhibition program at the Ian & Pamela Wall Gallery, located on the rooftop level of Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Adelaide Festival Centre proudly houses the Performing Arts Collection. Members of the public can make an appointment to view this invaluable resource in full.

Sub­scribe to our newsletter

Choose your interests and get the latest news straight to your mailbox.

North TceHindley StCurrie StWaymouth StFranklin StGrote StGouger StWright StSturt StGilbert StSouth TceRundle MallKing William RdFestival DrKing William StWest TceMorphett StMontefiore RdPultney StBank StLeigh StKintore AveGawler PlGrenfell StPirie StFlinders StWakefield StAngas StCarrington StHalifax StGilles StPitt St