This is the eighth in a series of vignettes by local historian Michael Fowler, detailing events and characters that have shaped the Hawke’s Bay Opera House story.

Photo: The Municipal Theatre as Ron Shakespeare saw it on TV – “drab and dirty, grey in colour”.

During a live telecast in 1986 of the game show It’s in the Bag from the Hastings Municipal Theatre, past Deputy Mayor of Hastings, Ron Shakespeare thought that the theatre looked drab and dirty.

No significant money had been spent on the theatre that Ron could ever remember, and although it still had remarkable acoustics, the inside was badly in need of attention.

A group of like-minded individuals got together and formed the Hastings Municipal Theatre Restoration Trust.

Fundraising raised enough money to renovate the auditorium, with the stated aim to match the original colours as closely as possible.

In 1992 the theatre work was completed, and the Trust turned its attention to the nearby Hastings Municipal Buildings, which they renovated by 1994.

Despite the cosmetic work in the theatre, there was still dissatisfaction and negative publicity over the facilities. “Embarrassing, antiquated and appalling,” was how one person described the theatre’s facilities, around the year 2000.

To address these concerns, the second renovation and renewal of the theatre began in 2002. Most of the redecoration done in the 1990s was replaced by the time the theatre reopened in 2006.

This period also saw the name change to the Hawke’s Bay Opera House, to avoid confusion with the Napier Municipal Theatre.