This allowed for a dedicated ensemble to develop in the new Arts Centre theatre the company had built in 1982. A diversity of works were produced in line with the company's manifesto:
To stage old and new rarely staged European plays in original translations, new New Zealand plays, and classical English texts in an unusual and experimental style. Emphasis is placed on non-verbal action and high production standards, discouraging the star system and encouraging long rehearsal and training periods in a company context.
At the same time, a slew of imaginative new works emerged that exposed local audiences to international contemporary theatre through presentations of avant garde innovators from Brecht to Sam Shepard, Patti Smith and Peter Handke... Mahagonny, Cowboy Mouth, (both directed by Falkenberg), Action (dir. Carol Bellini-Sharp), Tongues (assisted by Bellini-Sharp and Falkenberg), The Ride Over Lake Constance (dir. Nick Frost), Red Cross (dir. Leonard Wilcox with Falkenberg) and Takeaway (dir. Falkenberg with Roy Montgomery). Alongside this, an education programme with immersive productions such as The Hunting of the Snark began to attract students. Current Free Theatre ensemble member Emma Johnston cites Free Theatre's Snark production as a most memorable early theatre experience.
These productions served as the foundations to the emergence of a special new voice of contemporary theatre in New Zealand. The Press Arts Editor Chris Moore, previewing Faust Chroma in 2008 said: "For quarter of a century, Free Theatre has redefined cultural horizons and shaped Christchurch perceptions of contemporary theatre". With daring and determination, Free Theatre established itself in the 1980s as part of a tradition of Christchurch arts organisations and artists in the visual arts, music, literature and film that developed new work that was distinct and influential in the wider cultural landscape of New Zealand.
We've yet to feature all Free Theatre productions on our website (its a big archive!) but below are a few pics from the productions mentioned some of which feature on the website (links above). You can also see images from productions over three decades in our archive gallery.