At first glance it may look like just a standard café, but don’t be fooled by the exterior – Morningside’s Studio Theatre & Café has plenty more to offer than meets the eye. This café has a unique twist that sets it apart among a handful of restaurants, cafés and stores situated on Wynnum Road – as the name might suggest, it is home to a theatre!
Not far from celebrating my first anniversary as a semi-local here, it came as a surprise to me that I hadn’t stumbled upon this little gem any sooner.
It has all my favourites wrapped up in one; a bar, a café, local artwork and of course, a theatre production stage. But also, it’s got what many cafés are severely lacking these days: affordable prices ($15 for a piece of toast, eggs and a “complimentary slice of avocado”, are you serious Brisbane Cafés? Not all of you, but you know who you are!). Studio Theatre & Café is not one of them.
Here you’ll find breakfast, lunch and dinner options at prices that won’t break the bank, all the while not sacrificing quality food and coffee – and that was the exact intention that Damien Lee had for the establishment when it opened its doors just over a year ago.
Previously known as the Stagedoor Dinner Theatre in Bowen Hills, the relocation to Morningside was intended as a change of image for the family owned business.
“We wanted to create a complete new identity away from the 5 star, three course meal structure, so we decided to move the whole operation over here to set this up as a café that could operate daytime as well,” he says.
The café opens at 7 am (for all you early morning people out there) and closes late for shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a full on commitment for the party of three: Damien, his mother Doreen, and Bradley – who came for work experience with the business nine years ago and never left because he loved it so much.
“We’re very passionate about what we do,” Damien says with an unmistakable sense of pride.
“We’ve taken the commitment on to make this service available to the people.”
The café hosts a range of theatre shows including musicals and plays – most recently showcasing a tribute to John Lennon in Strawberry Fields, directed by Damien Lee and performed by accomplished vocalist Isaac Tibbs. The production gave audiences a rare glimpse into the more unknown details of Lennon’s life and treated spectators to a hauntingly good vocal performance of the late musician’s most famous songs.
Coming up next on the 17th and 18th of this month – all the way from Germany – is Helga Handfull, an intimate cabaret that follows the satirical Mistress of Ceremonies for a comic look on her many relationships with men.
Damien says variety is an important aspect of the café’s shows.
“We try to find cabarets that we think will resonate with people and are a bit of fun (…) there’s too much doom and gloom these days so we try to also have comedy”
Variety is certainly the word that comes to mind to describe this place. The theatre provides entertainment for all ages with performances in all kinds of genres. During school holidays it caters for more family orientated entertainment, showing children’s productions on a daily basis. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it’s classic movies screenings such as Luke Costello’s Africa Screams. And speaking of affordable prices – $7.50 will get you a movie ticket, a plate of sandwiches and tea or coffee.
Aside from the entertainment, the other thing is that you don’t necessarily have to come here to see a show. The café’s atmosphere provides a great place to relax and take it easy, away from the hustle and bustle of Brisbane city life. It’s a place for locals to meet and kick back with friends and family. And you never know who you might bump into with recent celebrity visits from former Big Brother housemates to cast members of “Wicked” and “Celtic Thunder”.
As for the future, Damien hopes the café will serve as an important community hub for Morningside.
“We want them [the locals] to know this is their place, the café is here to connect with the community (…) the facilities are all here, we just want the community to come use it.
“We would prefer to see volume rather than charging people more.”
Anyone interested in hiring the theatre for a function or to find out more about current or upcoming events can visit: