Is the Quarry Amphitheater worth preserving? City of Cambridge to assess where the site fits into Perth’s theater scene

A theater in the heart of Cambridge will soon undergo a major overhaul to determine if it is worth preserving.

The City of Cambridge is considering a strategic and operational overhaul of the Quarry Amphitheater on Readbold Hill in City Beach to understand where it fits into Perth’s theater scene and what structural work is needed to bring it back to its former glory.

Camera Icon The Quarry Amphitheater is being built. Credit: Town of Cambridge Local Studies/Imacon Flextight X5 Flexcolour V

The 557-seat theater — a state-registered heritage site — is used by multiple schools in the western suburbs from November to March, as well as the WA Ballet and Opera.

It is also a popular venue for weddings and private functions with its large picnic area and open space.

However, a council report said the need for significant repairs and a personnel management assessment at the site should be considered, costing the council an estimated $270,000 over the next 12 months.


A working limestone quarry until 1906, the site was abandoned until 1986, when it was converted into a theater by former Perth City ballet director Diana Waldron and her late husband, Ken.

Ms. Waldron told PerthNow that her husband suggested using the abandoned quarry as a theater venue when His Majesty’s Theater became too expensive for ballet performances.


Camera Icon The original plans for the Quarry Amphitheater as published in the local newspaper in 1982. Credit: Supplied

“Ken grew up in Floreat, so he went to the quarry with his friends after school,” said Ms. Waldron.

“So we went upstairs and instantly fell in love with the place, which was nothing more than a hole in the ground; I remember saying we could put that there and this there.

“Those two weeks, a $468,000 Community Employment Program grant had become available, which we successfully received, so we hired about 74 people to help us build it.

“From 1982 to 1986, we built it from over 3000 concrete bricks, and when it opened in late 1986, everyone was so proud of themselves for what they were doing; it was just complete love that made it a magical place.”

Camera IconDiana Waldron and Cambridge Mayor Keri Shannon at the theater for his 30th birthday in 2017. Credit: Supplied

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In the council report, officers found that while demand for the site was increasing, the site showed a significant shortfall for the city of Cambridge, which would be ‘unlikely’ to change without a detailed assessment.

Camera icon Waldron said the project initially faced some setbacks, mainly due to the amount of bushland being cleared for the theater. Credit: Included

It is estimated that $270,000 will be needed for upgrades to the quarry, including a toilet refurbishment, a disabled ramp, and rock wall restoration.

The Quarry Amphitheater is used for ballet, opera, and jazz performances by Trinity College and Presbyterian Ladies College for annual concerts.

While Trinity has been using the space since the early 2000s, PLC has held its annual proms concert at the theater for over 32 years.

Camera IconTrinity College is one of the few schools still using the quarry space. Credit: Included

PLC music director Chris Goff said the theater was important to the school’s history and social agenda.

“Our prom concert has a casual summer feel as PLC staff and families arrive early to set up their picnics, have time to chat, and enjoy the view of the city skyline at dusk,” said Mr. Goff.

“As the daylight fades, the skyline is replaced by city lights for our concert backdrop.

Camera icon The quarry theater at night. Credit: City of Cambridge

“The acoustics created in this natural environment is incredible; no matter where you sit, the sound is always great and encouraging for our up-and-coming musicians.”

Ms. Waldron hoped the council would seek help from herself and other stakeholders historically associated with the theater to help guide the way forward.

Camera iconThe original limestone quarry at Perry’s Hill in 1913. Credit: Town of Cambridge Local Studies

“I don’t think there’s much work to do because those concrete blocks will be there for a thousand years,” she said.

“What it lacks is management; there must be theater people running it and a concierge there during office hours.

“Ken and I built the Quarry Amphitheater for the community so everyone could get in and afford to go in.

“It’s just magic up there, and the unique thing about it is that it’s a theater in an old quarry with a fantastic sound; we have to keep it.”

City director Karl Heiden said he could not comment on bringing outside help until the council decided.

The City of Cambridge will consider the strategic and operational overhaul of the Quarry Amphitheater this month.

John D.Mayne
I love to write. When I wasn’t writing for my school newspaper or college blog, I was writing personal essays and journal entries. Then I discovered I loved to write. In college, I wrote for my school paper and my campus radio show. I started doing freelance writing for the Huffington Post in 2009. Then, I joined the team at Newsmyth as a writer/editor. Now, I spend most of my time writing for Newsmyth and as a guest blogger on a handful of other blogs. When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, cook, and spend time with friends.