The door frames are singed black. What’s left of the layers and layers of indoor paint – evidence of the many theatre sets crafted here throughout the decades – has peeled back in scorched chunks, revealing the brick beneath. Even the windows have melted: they sag through the remnants of the frame like heavy fabric.
But the four walls of Carlton’s historic La Mama Theatre, for the most part, still stand, the burnt shell held firm by reinforcements.
Eighteen months ago a fire devastated the heritage listed building that has homed the independent theatre company for 52 years. Last month, La Mama successfully reached its target of $3 million to rebuild, thanks to support from the state government, an alignment of philanthropic donors and the broader community.
“After the fire the state government were very quick off the mark and put $1 million in,” said Carillo Gantner, chair of the Sidney Myer Fund which was one of the five major donors that gave $200,000 each. The others were Gandel Philanthropy, John T Reid Charitable Trusts, the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and one generous anonymous donor.