Floating theatre could put Tailem Bend on the arts map

A Coorong councillor is leading a push to have an amphitheatre built on a clifftop overlooking the River Murray.

This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.

A floating theatre on the River Murray, perhaps with seating mounted on a cliff face, could become a major arts destination for South Australia, proponents say.

Coorong Councillor Glynis Taylor, pictured, is spearheading a campaign to have such a venue built at Tailem Bend.

She already has in mind a site near the Meningie turn-off, and even a tentative name: the Tagalang Floating Theatre.

What she wants now is to start a conversation about whether the community has enough interest in the idea to take it further.

“The idea is to improve the visibility of Tailem Bend, but also to give something to the community which is community-driven,” she said.

“They’d be very much involved in this ... they’re the ones with the vision.”

Several local people had been inspired by the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, Cr Taylor said: an amphitheatre cut into a steep granite overlook, with a stage in front and the sea crashing below.

Starting with a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream 88 years ago, the theatre has become an international tourist attraction, bringing performers from across the United Kingdom and audiences from around the world.

About 100,000 people visited every year prior to COVID-19.

Why could Tailem Bend not have a similar venue of its own, capable of hosting plays, concerts, weddings and more?

That question had been kicked around for years, she said.

It resurfaced at the recent opening of a pontoon for cruise boats at Dickson Reserve.

“When the Captain Proud pulled alongside, people could see there was an opportunity to bring people here and open up Tailem Bend and the river,” she said.

The idea already has some buy-in from the Coorong council.

At their August meeting, councillors voted to consult with Indigenous land owners and interested community members.

If they agreed, the council would seek grant funding for a feasibility study, so ratepayers would not have to pay.

However, only five of the nine councillors were in favour of the idea.

Cr Jeff “Tank” Arthur said he had no problems with the concept, but didn’t want the council having anything to do with it.

Other councillors noted potential problems including cost, the difficulty of building anything on a limestone cliff, and the fact the land in question was likely to be owned by the Ngarrindjeri under native title.

Photos: Minack Theatre (middle), Peri Strathearn. Clarification: An earlier version of this article referenced seating “cut into” the cliff face; it is not yet clear whether mounting the seating in that way would be technically feasible or responsible.