The Octagon Theatre at The University of Western Australia is the most versatile of the several venues managed by University Theatres. Opened in 1969, the thrust stage theatre was designed by Perth architect Peter Parkinson based on advice from renowned theatre architect, Sir Tyrone Guthrie. The greatest advantage of the thrust stage design is the semi-circular seating plan that provides excellent sightlines and an intimate environment, despite its 658 seat capacity. Adaptable staging allows the thrust to be extended for dance productions or removed to accommodate 100 extra seats in proscenium arch mode. An orchestra pit is revealed when the stage floor is removed. It is the only venue of its type in Perth.
The Octagon is a multi-purpose venue that is heavily booked for University events, community and youth concerts and professional touring acts. The venues’ flexibility ensures a large variety of performance genres can be staged within the same week, including dance, drama, opera, classical recitals, popular and contemporary music, stand-up comedy, cultural events and public seminars and conferences.
Playing an important role in sustaining the performing arts in Perth, the Octagon provides professional facilities at an affordable cost. Since opening in 1969, the Octagon has been a major venue for the annual Festival of Perth (now Perth International Arts Festival) and has staged major works of drama and music by some of the worlds leading companies. Artists that have played the venue include Steven Berkoff, Kerry Armstrong, Paco Pena, Michael Kieran Harvey, Marianne Faithful, Bob Geldof, Henry Rollins, Eddie Izzard, Sean Hughes and Sir David Attenborough. In recent years the Octagon has also become the venue for the major productions by the Black Swan Theatre Company.
University Theatres have been systematically upgrading the venue over the last 10 years to improve facilities for artists and patrons. Improvements include refurbishment to the auditorium, foyers and dressing rooms, new balcony, lift, dressing room and theatre lighting. University Theatres are confident of sustaining the current level of bookings and so long term plans for building new public foyers, bar, box office and public facilities are on the agenda.
One disadvantage of the semi-circular auditorium design was the difficulty in achieving an even dispersion of high quality amplified sound. Despite trying several high quality systems in different configurations over the previous years, there would inevitably be dead spots in the auditorium where the sound was either too loud, too soft or of poor intelligibility.
This problem has recently been solved with the purchase and installation of the Nexo Geo tangent array. After trialling several different configurations and products, the Nexo Geo S system was chosen for its outstanding clarity, dispersion and compact design. Patented speaker design and technology enable the Nexo system to provide sound quality previously unattainable in the Octagon.
The system comprises of 5 Nexo Geo S805, 1 Nexo Geo S830 and 1 Nexo CD12 sub low per side. The system is controlled by Nexo NX 241 digital processing and utilizes Camco Vortex 6 and 4 amplification.
Kevin Hamersley, manager of University Theatres, describes the new Nexo system as “extraordinary”. “It is just amazing how this system fills the entire room with sound.” He said. “The thrust stage style of the theatre previously made it impossible to get even coverage throughout the semi-circular auditorium. As soon as I heard the Nexo in the room I knew we had found the system we were looking for. Our audio technician’s are ecstatic!”
“Another major hurdle to cross was the requirement for the system to be aesthetically discrete. Because we are a multi-purpose venue and present both music and drama, we could not have large, obtrusive speaker boxes interfering with the stage space and lighting rig. The very compact size and dispersion characteristics of the Nexo enabled us to mount them either side of the stage where they are hardly noticeable.”