Andrew Sharp has turned an old hotel in Barraba, NSW, into a top-class cinema, theatre, restaurant and function venue.

Story Virginia Tapscott  Photo Josh Smith

The gentle autumn sun is streaming through the windows of the Playhouse Hotel dining room; the light is catching the bright white tablecloths and warming the backs of guests enjoying breakfast. Andrew Sharp is waiting tables. His twinkling eyes peer out from behind dark-rimmed glasses and his face crinkles into a welcoming smile. With flawless elocution from a lifetime of professional acting and a hint of a British accent, he can’t help but stand out. Fifteen years ago, Andrew traded the bright lights and bustle of London theatres for the quiet village of Barraba, in northern New South Wales.

As the din of mealtime fades and the diners trickle out, he tells his story. “Ever since I was a little boy I’ve been crazy about theatre,” Andrew says. “We used to have a deep windowsill at home and when I was about five years old I started putting on little shows there. I used to pull the curtains across and get all the family assembled and then I’d open the curtains and perform. I became a professional actor at 13 and later worked as a director. I spent many years of my life in England, but when I turned 50 I was looking for a place that I could call home.” 

Andrew’s discovery of Barraba was serendipitous; a trip to visit his partner’s family turned into a life-changing move. He quickly became involved in the local community’s struggle to revive their original town theatre, but when a bid for public funding failed, the idea was abandoned until the run-down old hotel came up for sale. Andrew decided to use his modest inheritance, seeded by the wool boom, to purchase the hotel and keep the dream alive. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #115

Outback Magazine: October/November 2017