When artists perform at the new space at Phoenix Central Park, they are in a collaboration with the space and the building itself.
Creative director Beau Nielson says this was quite deliberate.
“What is so different is that this building is so beautiful and so distinct,” says Nielsen.
“So we are not so keen on bringing in a lot of staging elements that detract from the space, and that is a limitation but its also an opportunity because the space gives a different flavour to the performance.
“A lot of venues are remade every time they are used, this one is built to last and be a constant presence.”
Phoenix Central Park is certainly a striking building, inside and out, and while any description demands a string of superlatives it can only be experienced in situ.
Rising from the ashes of a burnt out former martial arts studio in Chippendale, the building was designed by John Wardle Architects and Durbach Block Jaggers and has won several prizes for design including the 2020 NSW Architecture Medallion.
The vaulted ceiling of the performance space was designed in Australia but constructed in Germany from cross-laminated time which, while it might be wood, is suggestive of classical Byzantine brickwork but in a contemporary design shape.
Conceived to hold a maximum audience of around 150, the space is in the round, with audience seated on the perimeter of the performance area, sitting on the floor among the performers, or standing in the gallery above.
A halo-like lighting and sound rig sits above the performance area, and can be raised and lowered to effect.
Phoenix Central Park comprises not just the performance space but a new contemporary art gallery – think White Rabbit but with some more international artists – and an outdoor terrace which must be one of the most remarkable cactus gardens in Sydney.
Beau Nielsen says the curatorial program will embrace music – from indy to jazz and classical to avant garde – dance of all kinds and a diversity of performance genres.
Pianists using the space can chose between three very different instruments which are design objets all in themselves, one of them dating from the mid-19th century and another art deco futuristic piano from 1930s Denmark.
All performances are free to attend, and tickets are promoted through the venues social media channels and through a subscriber newsletter.
“Because we don’t sell tickets we are able to give people an opportunity they might not otherwise have,” says Nielsen.
“It’s not about getting bums on seats, so we are able to take a few more risks with different types of music for example, with different audiences attending each time.”
In addition to the Phoenix Central Park venue, Nielsen and her team are also presenting a series of acoustic musical performances – from art/folk to opera – in a church in Alexandria. Appropriately scheduled for Sundays, these are also free.
Phoenix Central Park will be presenting a new series of performances in May in both venues. Go to www.phoenixcentralpark.com.au or the venue’s social media pages for more details.