Altrincham's Hidden Theatre
Altrincham’s Oxford Road area is home to some of the town’s favourite businesses including Bert and Bert Barbers and, of course, Oxford Road Café. However, it is also the home of one of Altrincham’s best kept secrets – Altrincham Little Theatre. Walking into the theatre, past the photos of past productions and the impressive number of trophies won at drama events is a revelation. Who knew that so much was going on here? The opulent auditorium is stunning with its beautiful 1930s cinema seats complete with brass ashtrays – don’t try smoking in there today though please!
The company arrived in its present home, originally a Primitive Methodist chapel built in 1860, in 1962. Then known as The Club Theatre, it started life as St Margaret’s Players, a church drama group established to act out bible stories. The theatre has come a long way since then and now Altrincham Little Theatre offers a varied programme of five plays a year.
The plays are chosen by the play selection committee whose choices ensure that all the different departments are challenged. For example, the recent production of Kindertransport taxed the technical team with its set changes between Germany and Manchester, time travel, a ship, a train and a cinema – all taking place in an attic! Of course, they must also ensure that the plays will be welcomed by their loyal audience. Agatha Christie thrillers are always popular and a production of Witness for the Prosecution will be staged in March 2017. The theatre is also rented out to other drama groups. Look out for the annual pantomime by Stage Squad, an ex-police force troupe. Be aware - some of their performances are for adults only!
The Little Theatre offers lots of opportunities for actors of all ages with thespians travelling from all over Greater Manchester to take part in productions. Altrincham Youth Theatre meets there every Sunday morning between 10.30am and 1.30pm. It caters for children between the ages of 10 and 18 who are interested in drama. The group is a member of the National Association of Youth Theatres and all tutors are CRB checked. Students are encouraged to produce their own plays and enter them in competitive festivals as well as appearing in the main productions where appropriate. Theatre Committee member, Meg, explains that drama is very helpful in the development of confidence and presence but also empathy, as young people must understand and consider the motivations of their characters.
New talent and enthusiasm are always welcome but there are lots of backstage and front of house roles for those reluctant to tread the boards. Costumes are an integral part of a performance, of course – don’t some actors say that they start with the right shoes when they are getting into character? The Little Theatre’s wardrobe department is a treasure trove of vintage and reproduction clothing - frock coats, top hats, Victorian maid outfits, flapper dresses, kid gloves, button boots, mini dresses with fringes for shimmying – and all for hire!!!
The next play is Out of Order, a classic Whitehall farce by Ray Cooney which will run from the 20th to the 26th of November. Tickets can be booked via the theatre’s website here www.clubtheatre.org.uk. Season tickets are available. The group holds open auditions the dates of which are published on their Facebook page and website. They also tweet @TheatreAlt.