Anxiety and art deco: The Civic Theatre, Auckland


Following on from my post about The Embassy Theatre it seems only right that I rate one of Auckland’s fine examples of theatreing excellence. The Civic Theatre is more than just a pretty building from the outside, the interior has more wow factor than Kim Kardashian’s bleached arsehole.

Turns out this is not just a lovely space to put some art but also an important example of ‘atmospheric theatre’ design. In fact it is the largest remaining example of this style in Australasia. Yeah that’s right, I know how to use wikipedia. What this highfalutin expression means is a theatre designed with the intention of making you, the audience member, feel as thought you were a part of the show, a part of the stage and dressing. While you are buying a glass of cheap red wine, eating an over priced ice block or popping down to join the cue for the ladies with 2000 other audience members, the whole time you are made to feel a part of the production. Walking through a back-drop of pseudo Arabian nights or Moorish plaster work, it attempts to maintain a theatrical ‘look’ throughout. No doubt far too many older ladies break in to song and dance when faced with the prospect of being such an integral part of such a atmosphere. *Shudder*.




Built in 1928 with a mega refurb during the early 2000’s, the Civic is a jewel in the burnt out colon that is Queen Street. Once a great high street but now just filled with arseholes and Starbucks.


The touches of art deco prettiness make my old cynical heart happy. I loved this bathroom signage, not just because of the colours and the sun burst motif but also because of the flirty-jaunty angle of the ladies skirt. See, she is fancy but also a little naughty and sexy. Like a femme fatale character in a 30’s spy film, she won’t be giving up her ‘prize’ but she’ll make you think she will for the right information….

And she wears kick ass gloves too, like Linda Lee.





Obviously again with the tiles, I love me some 20’s hexagonal tile work.


One weird thing was that the toilets themselves were actually a bit crap, pardon my pun. The rest of the fittings and fixtures were of a lovely standard but the toilet seats and bowls themselves looked like they had been found in a skip and just chucked on when they ran out of new ones. Seriously, yellowy stained toilet seats really killed the look and would be very easy to rectify.



As I was with my boy I was a bit naughty and when it was empty I had a wee look in the men’s, just to see if they had nice porcelain urinals (they did) rather than the cheap and nasty stainless steel ones. I was pleasantly surprised.


The art deco features on the doors followed throughout all the bathrooms I saw which is a great example of the thought and detail put in to things back in the day. Stupid current day utilitarianism making everything boring and unartistic.



Cleanliness : 9/10  Clean and decent other than the gross old toilet seats mentioned earlier.

Interior :  8/10  Stalls are as ever not my fav but I did like that it was hidden away down some slightly confusing stair cases (they were awesome) and not in the general line of any of the main theatre areas. I liked the privacy and the quiet. The bathroom was not packed when we were there in spite of there being a couple shows and exhibitions on for the Auckland Arts Festival. There were obviously enough toilets available throughout the building to take the number of clientele expected, nice.

Exterior :  9/10  No one would stop you if you were walking in off the street as lots of people just come in to admire the building, so if you are on Queen Street and want a good safe place to calm down from a panic, the Civic would be one of my first suggestions.

Safety : 9/10  Not a place you are likely to be stabbed unless you are actually a spy, then my guess is as good as yours.

Snugglitude : 8/10  Decent, pretty and quiet, would definitely pee in again.

Total!! :  43/50


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