Iconic Newtown theatre The Hub is 100 years old this year according to an independent website devoted to this country’s early entertainment industry. Formerly known as the Bridge Theatre, the building is also thought to be the last purpose-built vaudeville theatre still standing in New South Wales. Until now very few factual details about the theatre’s glory days under the control of vaudeville entrepreneur, Harry Clay, have been available.
Dr Clay Djubal, founder of the Australian Variety Theatre Archive, and great-great-great nephew of the venue’s original owner, explains that much of the published history of the building has in fact been cobbled together and recycled from a number of pseudo-research sources. “Apart from the numerous errors,” he says, “none of these publications have come close to recognising the pivotal role Clay’s Newtown headquarters played in relation to either his career or as part of the broader industry.”
As one of the country’s leading training organisations for emerging performers, Clay’s operations were vital to industry expansion during the 1910s, a period which saw the local variety industry reach its peak popularity. Indeed, two of the biggest names of the era, Roy “Mo” Rene and George Wallace were both associated with the Bridge Theatre during that decade.
Much of the information contained in the Bridge/Hub Theatre biography is derived from a 1998 Master of Arts thesis Dr Djubal completed on his famous uncle. In 2012 he began further research which has resulted in significant new insights. Among the facts most commonly misrepresented are the theatre’s origins. “Most sources claim that Harry Clay took over the Newtown Hippodrome, with dates ranging from 1908 to 1911. Council records and the media of the day prove that he actually built the theatre in partnership with Newtown alderman/Mayor Harold T. Morgan. It opened for business on 19 July 1913,” says Dr Djubal.
The Bridge Theatre entry can be accessed at: http://ozvta.com/theatres-a-f/
While the Australian Variety Theatre Archive focuses on the pre-1930s industry, Dr Djubal also provides details relating to his uncle’s theatre beyond 1939 – the year its name was changed to The Hub. “I feel I owe it to Harry to try and establish the facts,” says Dr Djubal. “Without him I might never have taken the path of an historian. But more importantly, as the acknowledged ‘friend of the Australian performer,’ he should be accorded the level of recognition his peers no doubt believed he deserved.” The theatre’s 100th anniversary seems a fitting time to do this.”
The Australian Variety Theatre Archive extends on the research undertaken during the course of Dr Djubal’s 2005 Ph D thesis. The site went public on 10 May 2011, the 146th anniversary of Harry Clay’s birth. Dr Djubal is especially keen to hear from descendants of vaudeville performers involved in the early Australian variety industry.
For further details contact Dr Clay Djubal