Show artwork for The Sumner Word Wall
PHOTO: Benjamin Healley

Southbank Theatre

The Sumner Word Wall

Learn more about the quotes inside the Sumner auditorium, from plays that span centuries of theatre history, which also serve an acoustic function.

As you take your seat inside the Sumner, you may have noticed that the walls are adorned with quotes from plays.

When the auditorium of the Sumner theatre was being conceived by ARM architecture and the theatre designers, there were concerns around the acoustics in the space. The acousticians explained that wooden panels with holes in them would be necessary to control the sound bounce inside the auditorium, so ARM architecture suggested making them visually interesting with lights behind the panels to shine through the holes. That was the lightbulb moment for then-Artistic Director Simon Phillips and General Manager Ann Tonks: what if the holes created words?

52 quotes from plays now adorn the interior of the Sumner, from Aristophanes Ancient Greek comedy The Frogs (405 BC) through to Joanna Murray-SmithHonour (1995). Some of the plays have even been staged again by the Company in the theatres first decade. Below is a selection of the quotes from plays that have appeared on stage at MTC. Can you spot them in the auditorium in our virtual tour?


Walk! Not bloody likely. Im going in a taxi.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw


MTC_PYGMALION_Simon_Chilvers_Pickering_Sandy_Gore_Eliza_Frederick_Parslow_Prof_Higgins.jpgSimon Chilvers, Sandy Gore & Frederick Parslow. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (1977)


God is a gentleman – he prefers blondes.

Loot by Joe Orton


LOOT_Colour_Slide_-_Monica_Maughan_Gil_Tucker_Chris_Gregory.jpg Monica Maughan, Gil Tucker & Chris Gregory. PHOTO: David Parker (1984)


I do recommend a sex scandal.

Serious Money by Caryl Churchill


B_W_Serious_Money_-_John_McTernan_Richard_Roxb_Belinda_Davey_Robert_Mezies_Kerry_Walker_Ronald_Arthur_banks.jpgJohn McTernan, Richard Roxburgh, Belinda Davey, Robert Menzies, Kerry Walker & Ronald Arthur Becks. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (1988) 


I didn't get to where I am by squeezing play-dough.

Dreams in an Empty City by Stephen Sewell


B_W_Dreams-City_Photo_by_Jeff_Busby_2_Dennis_Coard_Richard_Piper.jpgDennis Coard & Richard Piper. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (1989)


Lets go! We cant. Why not? Were waiting for Godot.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett


Waiting_For_Godot_-_Trio_Photo_By_Jeff_Busby_Jacek_KomanIan_Scott_Alex_Menglet.jpgJacek Koman, Ian Scott & Alex Menglet. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (1990)


On the way to a bran nue dae. Everybody, everybody say.

Bran Nue Dae by Jimmy Chi & Kuckles


Bran_Nue_Dae_-_Color_Photos_by_Jeff_Busby_Black_Swan_W.A_Steve_Kidd_Leah_Purcell_Stephen_Baama_Albert_10.jpgSteve Kidd, Leah Purcell & Stephen "Baamba" Albert. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (1993)


Cheerful’s in my horoscope – what are you?

A Cheery Soul by Patrick White


Photo-2-Sue-Ingleton_-Robyn-Nevin_-Judith-McGrath_-Ian-Scott_-Iris-Shand_-Jackie-Kelleher.jpgSue Ingleton, Robyn-Nevin, Judith McGrath, Iris Shand, Jackie Kelleher & Ian Scott. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (1996)


A salesman is got to dream boy – it comes with the territory.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller


Death_of_a_Salesman.jpgSue Jones & Frank Gallacher. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2000)


I'm afraid of depths.

Man the Balloon by Matt Cameron


B_W_Man_The_Balloon_Photo_By_Jeff_busby_Richard_Piper_Julie_Forsyth_Francis_Greenslade_Jane_Turner_Ross_Williams.jpgRichard Piper, Julie Forsyth, Francis Greenslade, Jane Turner & Ross Williams. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2000)


We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare


The_Tempest.pngMargaret Harvey & John Stanton. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2001)


The young are always unforgiving – its part of your charm.

Honour by Joanna Murray-Smith


Honour_Photo_by_Jeff_Busby_Janet_Andrewartha_William_Zappa_6.jpgJanet Andrewartha & William Zappa. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2004)


Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare


MTC_HAMLET_photo_JEFF_BUSBY_0897.jpgThe cast of Hamlet. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2011)


A grown up woman howling over a silly old kewpie doll, that’s Olive for you.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler


MTC Summer of the Seventeenth Doll photoJeffBusby 03Steve Le Marquand & Alison Whyte. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2012)


Put that coffee down – coffee is for closers.

Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet


MTC_Glengarry_Glen_Ross_2014_photo_JEFF_BUSBY_1186.jpgAlex Dimitriades. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2014)


Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.

Private Lives by Noël Coward


MTC PRIVATE LIVES photo JEFF BUSBY 1362Leon Ford & Nadine Garner. PHOTO: Jeff Busby (2014) 


Published on 12 May 2020

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