Theatre buff marks 40 years in showbiz

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Invercargill theatre stalwarts Jonathan Tucker (left) and Mark Holmes socialise in the late 1980s.

THIS year marks four decades since Invercargill theatre stawart Mark homes first tread the boards.

His first performance was in the chorus of Invercargill Operatic Society’s The Pirates of Penzance directed by Jonathan Tucker. He was 17.

Holmes attributed his enduring love of theatre to Tucker who was his role model and mentor.

“If it wasn’t for Jonathan Tucker, I would not have continued in theatre. I certainly wouldn’t be here talking about 40 years.

“If that first experience hadn’t been as great as it was, I probably would have stopped.”

He performed in two more shows that year, Cinderella, an Invercargill Repertory Society pantomime and Half a Sixpence with the Operatic Society.

Since then, Holmes had been involved in numerous productions, as much behind the scenes as on stage.

Holmes said he enjoyed both aspects of the theatre equally, as each offered different rewards.

Among the highlights of his past 40 years in theatre was playing the lead in Invercargill Repertory Society’s Hamlet in 1993 and Javert in the Invercargill Operatic Society’s production of Les Miserables in 1994.

Behind-the-scenes highlights included building the challenging sets for Journey’s End in 1986 and World War 1 drama Once On Chunuk Bair in 2015, he said.

When the Invercargill Musical Theatre company (IMT), formerly Invercargill Operatic Society, experienced financial problems in the early-mid 2000s, Holmes joined the executive team to turn the company’s fortunes around.

“I didn’t want to, but because I had gotten so much out of the place, I thought it was my duty to go back and help them out.”

The company staged The Sound of Music in 2012 and Grease the following year, and got its books back in the black.

Holmes said theatre in Invercargill was in a good place at the moment.

“The talent we have to draw on down here is incredible.”

Both theatre companies were “looking strong”, despite IMT having to manage the high costs associated with staging its productions, he said.

One of Holmes’ dreams was to instigate a project to develop a dedicated theatre for IMT to hold its theatre restaurants and other smaller productions, he said.

“I would love to see them have their own small place and not be constrained by budgets.”

At present, he is in rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park’s upcoming show The Rude Mechanicals Revival. He is also the stage manager for IMT’s junior production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang this year.

In addition, Holmes and Tucker plan to mark 40 years of working together by staging a Roger Hall play with Repertory later this year.

Holmes said he would continue to be involved in theatre for many years to come.

The reason?

“It’s the people, the people, the people.”

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