Raising the Curtain: A History of Patch Theatre Company, 1939 - 1950

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Arts and Sciences)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Professor Deborah Gare

Second Supervisor

Doctor Christine de Matos


This thesis investigates the social history of one of Perth’s oldest and longest-running amateur theatres, the Patch Theatre Company, from when it was founded in 1939 by Ida and Edward Beeby until their departure from the company in the late 1940s. The Beebys’ strong partnership and dynamic personalities helped build Patch into a successful company and thriving community. It was a school of music, drama, and dance, and one of the most popular amateur theatres in Western Australia during and after the Second World War. The development, operation and impact of Patch has been largely overlooked in Western Australian histories. In this thesis, I investigate the origins of Patch in the social, cultural, and political context of Perth in the 1930s and 1940s, including the impact of its charismatic leaders, the Beebys. I evaluate the degree to which Patch and its performances were influenced by the political activism of Edward Beeby in an age of ideological extremism, and assess the progressive impact of Ida Beeby on the development of modern dance in Perth. Finally, I determine the social, cultural, and political impact of Patch in its first decade, from 1939 to 1950, and consider the degree to which its initial success may have rested on the dynamic partnership of the Beebys. This research has been supported by a scholarship funded by the Patch Theatre Company, which continues to exist, and draws on exclusive access to the company’s rich archival records to contribute new knowledge of Western Australia’s social and cultural history of the 1930s and 1940s. I also draw on oral history interviews, conducted as part of this project, and make use of primary-source evidence in historical newspapers, artefacts, ephemera and archives within the State Library of Western Australia, records of the Museum of Performing Arts WA (His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth), and published biographical records. Rich historical literature also informs my research for this thesis, including that of mid-century theatre and Western Australian history. The Beebys’ engagement with international political and cultural movements challenges the historical canon that asserts Perth’s cultural, social, and political isolationism. Finally, this study contributes to Perth’s rich history of amateur theatre and dance by examining Patch, one of the key theatres during the war, and its impact.

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