The National Theatre Movement (1935-1971)

The National Theatre Movement (1935-1971)

The timeline of The National begins in 1935 when Miss Gertrude Johnson OBE, a dynamic figure in the performing arts in London and Melbourne, founded the National Theatre Movement, Victoria – an enterprise dedicated to nurturing the talents of young Australians in the performing arts. Gertrude Johnson was the National’s Director – an honorary position she held for the rest of her life.

She established the National Theatre Drama School in 1936 and the National Theatre Ballet School in 1939.

From 1969, with Melbourne music identity, John Cargher as general manager, the National Theatre concentrated on developing its training program.

Three years later in 1971 the National Theatre Movement purchased Hoyt’s Cinema’s Victory theatre. Cargher, who remained at the helm for 20 years, guided the conversion of the Victory Theatre, St Kilda (a Hoyts cinema) into the National Theatre headquarters. Preserving the building’s striking Beaux-Art architectural style, extensive renovations were undertaken in 1972 and the newly formed National Theatre opened in 1974.

Cargher devised the innovative scheme that located the National’s schools and offices in what had once been the cinema stalls, while the dress circle was converted into a fully equipped 780-seat theatre for student and community use.

The National continues to embrace Gertrude Johnson’s distinctive blend of arts training, experience and support – an affectionate and fitting tribute to the selflessness, determination and inexhaustible enthusiasm of a truly remarkable woman.