The magical Cotswold venue that is The Theatre in Chipping Norton is celebrating its 40th year and if the number and diversity of new shows and events on offer is anything to go by, it is in the prime of life.
Beginning as a Salvation Army Citadel in 1888, the building’s designers and engineers just happened to be those behind many Victorian Music Halls, leaving it perfectly proportioned for its future theatrical life.
The building was discovered by two Royal Shakespeare Company actors, Tamara and John Malcolm in 1968.
A locally-based fundraising campaign began in 1973 and in 1975 The Theatre was opened by the then Dr Who, Tom Baker, with a light programme of films and lunchtime jazz concerts.
Since then The Theatre has gone from strength to strength as new buildings have been purchased and converted and the ambition of the programme expanded.
Now in its 40th year The Theatre has built an enviable reputation for its annual pantomimes which draw in families from near and far. This year’s show Jack and the Giant was no exception with its heady mix of belly laughs, stomping sing-alongs, and the traditional Chippy sweet throwing.
The Theatre is also developing a strong reputation for its self-produced work, much of which has been directed by long-term theatre associate John Terry. Last year a fragile and sensitively acted rendition of Tenesse Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and powerfully rendered hostage tale, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me, by Frank McGuiness, showed the production team have the expertise to create deeply moving and intellectually challenging art.
Upstairs, the Owen Mumford gallery is staging exhibitions by some internationally recognised artists and a thriving programme of community arts is determinedly reaching out to the public.
The Theatre is indeed the icing on Chipping Norton’s cake, and deserves a candle being lit for it in this special birthday year.
To find out more about The Theatre call 01608 642350.