Studio Theatre (Theatre Production Company)

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In Salisbury during WWII a theatre company was formed called 'The Centre Players Club', beginning life as the drama section of the city's War Workers Recreational Centre in Blue Boar Row, an organisation created to cater for the leisure needs of those drafted into the district.
In 1946 the club became 'The Centre Players Amateur Dramatic Society' which performed in the Arts Theatre, hospitals and local villages.
In 1950 it became apparent that the time was ripe for a bold experiment in amateur drama based on the idea of a small intimate 'studio' theatre run on club lines.
In the Autumn of 1951 premises were found at the Milford Arms (now the Old Coach House) Milford Street. With the conversion work completed, 'The Centre Players Studio Theatre Club' had arrived, with seating for 65, and a stage with facility to 'fly' scenery, the first of its type in Salisbury.
The first production was 'Amphitryon 36' in October 1952, a month before the 'Mousetrap' opened in London.
The prefix 'Centre Player' was dropped the following year and the 'Studio Theatre Club' was to begin its long reputation as a company producing drama of a high quality.
In 1954 the future Booker Prize winner William Golding directed 'The Alcestics of Euripedes'.
The Summer of 1958 brought a new venture, open air theatre with performances of Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' on the lawn of Church House, Crane Street and also at Durnford Manor.

Two Major events took place in March 1959, the first was to gain membership to the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, (an organisation which exists to improve and help groups who have been in their theatres for five years, and have reached a sufficiently high standard of production and acting). Studio was not only the first theatre from the West of England to join, but also the smallest. Presented later that month was the World Premiere of 'Four Men' by André Davis, this play was placed fourth in the Observer's play writing competition. André's son, in years to come, was to direct for Studio.

The 1906s
In 1962, after many years experience of open air productions Studio took their production of Sophocle's 'Elekra' to the Cornish cliff top stage at Minack. Also in this year, Studio appeared in the National papers with their revue titled "Don't worry if you keep going around and round in circles; we've been doing it for years and we find you get used to it after a while!" The point was made that there were nearly as many words in the title as there were seats in the Milford Street theatre. The smallness of the Milford Street premises generated a considerable amount of interest and BBC Television did a feature on the theatre while we were performing the Revue. This was countered by a feature by Southern Television a little later when we were doing 'Mother Courage'. On this occasion, however, unlike the Beeb, STV felt the place was too small to get their equipment in, so they built a replica of the Theatre in their studios in Southampton. (Thanks to Tony Neale for this item).

The summer of 1963 saw the beginning of a tradition that was to last until recent years: the open air production moved to the magical venue of Old Sarum Castle with Shakespeare's 'Cymbeline'.

The next milestone was the following year - it was to be the last at the Milford Street Theatre, the final production was ironically 'The Philanderer'.
For a permanent theatre, Studio had been negotiating around this time to acquire a site in Crane Lodge but this was to fail at the planning stage.

Studio needed a new home, and in 1964 moved to the 'Loft' adjacent to the Swan Inn (now the Grey Fisher) Ayleswade Road, Harnham. Here, one-act and full length plays were presented to club members and guests, whilst productions for the public were still performed at the Technical College.
On the programme of the 1967 Salisbury Festival of the Arts was Studio's 'King Lear'.

The 1970s
A challenging period was to unfold in the late seventies. The new Salisbury Playhouse opened with a Studio of their own, and the St Edmunds Arts Centre was established, and began to attract touring companies, with the type of drama of which Studio used to be the only producer. Not only was there now competition for audiences but also for financial support, as others launched vigorous appeals to survive. Studio was not slow, however to realise the potential of using these venues.

Another change of scene happened in 1978; Studio moved into a converted stable block at the rear of the Railway Tavern near the railway station. Compared with previous buildings The Stables offered almost ideal accommodation, but could only seat 40 people and performances were still only for club members and guests.

In the Spring of 1979 Studio first performed in the Salberg Studio, with Alan Bennet's 'Getting On'. This was to be the first of many seasons at the Salisbury Playhouse, where frequently Studio was taken to be a professional company. A crisis of identity was now becoming apparent. Studio was being mistaken for a Playhouse company; this was to prove a handicap in regard to fund raising and sponsorship. Some companies however did sponsor Studio. In 1980 the open air Shakespeare, 'The Taming of the Shrew' was sponsored by the Trustee Savings Bank and Studio. Support from the Midland Bank, Marks and Spencer and local firms was to follow.

Studio has been for many, the first rung of the ladder to a professional career in the theatre, and to places at the leading drama schools including RADA.

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Alternative Company Names

  • The Studio Theatre
  • Studio Theatre, London
  • Studio Theatre Group