Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities

Denis Irving

Theatre Consultant

No. 12 in a continuing series

Denis Irving

Caricatures by

David Lewis

In the mid 1950s, Denis Irving quit a promising career in mechanical engineering to go into show business. His passion for stage lighting led him to divide his time between two growing organisations of the time, the fledgling Union Theatre repertory Theatre Company (subsequently the renowned Melbourne Theatre Company) and the embryonic Australian Office of the Strand Electric Company. Ultimately, the latter claimed 150 percent of his life and in time, he rose, virtually from being office boy to chief executive as Strand Electric developed.

Theatre design has always been one of his great interests. In his latter years at Strand he found himself reverting to old habits by collaborating with the design teams for such prestigious projects as the Festival Theatre in Adelaide, Suncorp Theatre (Queensland), Seymour Centre (Sydney) and The Victorian Arts Centre. As in the case of all Strand employees, this was, of course, to the benefit of both organisations!

With the taste of consultancy fully developed, Denis set himself on to the unsuspecting world of architects by forming Entertech Pty Ltd in 1979. Since then, he has found himself on many Australian theatre and arts centre design projects. Under the Entertech banner he has contributed to The Araluen Centre (Alice Springs), South Australia's four regional theatres (Renmark, Port Pirie, Mount Gambier and Whyalla), the Burswood Casino, and the entertainment centres at Darwin, Mackay and Sydney.

Numbered in his list of passions is the restoration of Australia's heritage stock and Denis has been keenly involved in the restoration of two of the country's oldest theatres, the Theatre Royal in Hobart, and Her Majesty's Theatre in Ballarat. The vintage Empire Theatre in Toowoomba and Sydney's magnificent Capitol also saw the Entertech touch. The field of education has also felt the Irving influence. Denis's early years at Strand selling equipment to schools has enabled him to influence the design for many school and college spaces.

Denis as Entertech also appears on the world's stages. He is well known on the international consultancy circuit, visiting Europe and the UK regularly to maintain contact with current trends. He undertakes commissions in Asia when available, the most recent being the Genting Highlands Theatre Restaurant in Malaysia. He spent several years as national president of the IES and ANCI (now CIE Australia) culminating in the winning of the CIE's Quadriennial Session in Melbourne in 1991.

The new millennium has ssen the completion of his work at the Clocktower Performing Arts Centre at Essendon and the Brenton-Langbein Centre at Tanunda (South Australia's wine district). The year ehad will see his work appeare in a new Performing Arts Centre at Dandenong, a new theatre at Bendigo and the Walsh Street Theatre for the Sydney Theatre Company.

Ever the battler, Denis is committed to ‘getting it right' and is renowned for his championing of the theatre cause. While this may have resulted in grey hairs for a few architects, it has resulted in some very fine theatres!

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