“Can’t you give it a better name? Haymarket Theatre sounds . . . well it
sounds common. Why not something like the Theatre Royal down the street.”
“That’s the point” said Coppin.
“People will immediately know
where it is and that theatre is available to anyone willing to pay the price
of admission, not just those wanting to be seen.”
Coppin also knew that his reputation as a comic actor in ‘commoner’ roles
was how people remembered him and how he had made his way out of bankruptcy
more than once. In that role he could head to the gas footlights and engage
in some broad character acting and double entendre for those standing in the
stalls while still weaving in some biting satire for those in the circle
capable of listening between the lines. “I think the Haymarket Theatre sends
the right message and will return the agreed percentage on your investment.”
It was a bold move. Coppin had already lost a large amount of money
through his investment in the Melbourne & Suburban Railway Company. The
construction of the major bridges across the Yarra at Burnley and Hawthorn
had stretched the finances of the company to the extent where the
government, who built no major infrastructure itself, had only to wait for
it to look like going broke before picking it up for a song. But if you
needed a song, there was always Mrs Coppin. The legality of Mr and Mrs
George Coppin’s conjugation was about as reliable as Mr and Mrs John
Batman’s, but in Melbourne at that time you didn’t enquire too closely.
Coppin succeeded in raising the money for his new theatre. He would no
doubt be puzzled by the current fashion of actors being wheeled out to
proclaim themselves as architectural experts to protest the alteration of
some piece of decaying nostalgia by relabeling it 'heritage'. Coppin
preferred to create and commission and build and improve society through
social engineering. Among his legacy is Gordon House and the Old Colonists
settlement in Fitzroy.
The Haymarket Theatre was to prove a success and the appropriateness of
its name can be seen in this contemporary illustration.