Wellington Repertory owes its foundation to the fortuitous union of two aspects of theatre: first, an old professional with a dream – Leo du Chateau; and, secondly, a small group of Wellingtonians who felt that the new cinema, or ‘mechanical theatre’, had brought legitimate theatre into total eclipse and who were prepared to do their share to preserve the Thespian art for posterity.
About 1913, when Leo du Chateau was associated on the business side with Gregan MacMahon’s Repertory Company in Australia, he promised himself that one day he would form a similar company in his home town, Wellington. His opportunity came in 1925, after a tour of the Far East with Sir Harry Lauder, with the intention of giving one year to funding and establishing a Repertory Society which would measure up to the best standards abroad. Once back in Wellington du Chateau communicated his enthusiasm to Vivian Rhind, W.M. Page and Mrs E.W.G. Coleridge. Although they were not entirely sanguine about his scheme, these three encouraged du Chateau to persevere. Mrs Coleridge convened a meeting of those interested while Mr du Chateau arranged head-quarters for the proposed society. At the same time, he and his friends canvassed for foundation members.
On February 26 1926, a public meeting was called at the Society’s premises and Repertory was launched. The first production was Shaw’s Pygmalion, produced by Leo du Chateau himself, and was presented in the Concert Chamber of the Town Hall from May 20 to 26 1926. Four further productions were staged during that year. At first the society was known as the National Repertory Society; but in 1932 this was changed to Wellington Repertory Theatre.
The foundation members of the Society were Sir Charles Skerrett, W. Gray Young, E. Anderson, E.S. Baldwin, C. Clabburn, D.M. Findlay (the first President), J.H.Lee, Mesdames Pike, E.L. Riddiford, J. Hannah, W.E. Herbert, K. Kirkkaldie, and Misses T. Baldwin and L. Hall.
Wellington Repertory Theatre today is a modern, vibrant theatre company that aims to carry on the tradition of producing great shows started by its forebears.