KBA Newsletter September 2018: Character of K' Road Raymond Hawthorne

Character of K' Road: Raymond Hawthorne, ONZM

A driving force behind theatre around K' Road, including founding Theatre Corporate and directing at the Mercury Theatre, Raymond Hawthorne, ONZM, has been part of the fabric of K' Road for many decades.

Raymond Hawthorne first arrived in K' Road in 1958, a bright eyed, bushy tailed aspiring actor for the NZ Players. Over the years he became a driving force behind the development of theatre in the K' Road precinct and beyond, including founding Theatre Corporate. His services to the theatre were recognised in 2000 when he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for Services to the Theatre. Raymond set up residence in the street 25 years ago when he became one of the original George Court apartment residents. The 82 year old talks of his life around his “village" of K' Road….

How did you come to K' Road initially?
I joined the New Zealand Players, (New Zealand's first major professional theatre company) just out of high school in 1958 and toured with them for 2 ½ years. Then I won a government scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London (RADA). I moved into directing and teaching over there before returning to New Zealand in 1971 because my mother was dying of cancer. Around that time I got offered an acting and directing job at the Mercury Theatre. This is when my history with K' Road really began. I grew to love the neighbourhood.

When did Theatre Corporate start up?
I set up Theatre Corporate in Galatos St in 1973, while still working at Mercury. We started with rehearsals rooms in K' Road, then moved to Galatos St where we built a 200 seat theatre with a studio below. It was cute and we did some very good work there. We put on a wide variety of plays, modern, as well as Shakespeare. I'd go overseas every year and scoop up plays I thought would work here. We put on a lot of great productions that were complex and difficult.

After a while we opened an education theatre on Cross St in the space where Millars is now.

And then you got involved in opera?
Yes, I was at Theatre Corporate for eight years until 1981. In 1982 I became the Director of National Opera for New Zealand and we toured a lot. It suited me, I liked it very much. Then Mercury Theatre got the opera so I became head of Mercury (1985). It was a gorgeous time. We had two theatre spaces so we could do avant garde pieces, commercial pieces and opera. Audiences were very broad - they came from everywhere.

You were doing educational work too?
Yes. We took classes into schools and that was extremely successful. Theatre in Education and Story Theatre kept Theatre Corporate going – the theatre was too small with only 200 seats so it got very hard financially.

Why all this theatre around K' Road?
K' Road was very welcoming to artists and actors and a huge theatre community grew around the area over this time. Everyone enjoyed being here because it was so central and alive, it wasn't too expensive to go out and eat after and we could go off to all sorts of places very quickly.

Are you still doing any theatre work?
Not much now. I take classes at Te Pou out in Henderson from time to time and do the occasional show.

When did you move to George Courts?
About 25 years ago. I had been away somewhere and came back and saw the advert for the George Courts apartments and thought, this will do me. I bought a big apartment on the ground floor. My girls were thrilled – they would have been 18 and 19 and they loved living there. About 10 to 12 years ago I moved to this small apartment (on the fourth floor). I'm very happy in George Courts, it is managed very well by very nice people.

What keeps you here?
It is like living in a village. I walk along the street, I know lots of people. Everyone is very friendly. There is always somewhere to go and if you get sick of one place, you can go and find another.

I also find it safe, at all hours of the night. I've never felt scared or been accosted and if I do see something that isn't very good, then I know who to talk to about it.

The buses are marvellous. I don't drive, I've never driven so K' Road is very handy for someone who doesn't drive.

Favourite spots on K' Road?
Lum Chour is marvellous, I get nearly everything I need from there.

The Station, where the old toilets used to be in Beresford Square, is where I go for coffee now. The coffee is excellent. And I really enjoy going into the Arcade because of the book shop and other places.

K' Road has some very, very good restaurants – Madame George is a marvellous restaurant. Pablo is a great person. I take a lot of people to Madame George. Shanghai Lil is great.

How has it changed over the years in your eyes?
It is busier and less personalised but there is still a friendliness and connection among locals - people are very caring towards each other.

I admire how buildings are taken care of. There is some lovely architecture, really lovely. Gentrification is ok if it fits with the street.

However, I'm concerned that train systems and cycle ways will impact on the village feel.

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