Over 100 years of success
The Everyman Theatre was opened, as The New Theatre & Opera House, on 1 October 1891.
The theatre had a triumphant start with the most famous actress of the era, Lily Langtry, reciting an introductory prologue in praise of the new building before starring with her own company in Tom Taylor's play Lady Clancarty.
In the early years the theatre staged a mix of classical plays, serious drama as well as The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Famous actors such as Ellen Terry, HB Irving and even Charlie Chaplin appeared at the theatre.
In 1925 the theatre changed hands. The new owners began to present even more variety. Everything from ballet and opera to comedy was on offer bringing a diverse audience to Regent Street.
World War II brought great theatrical opportunities to Cheltenham as theatres in London closed during the blitz. Cheltenham, largely escaping the bombing, offered a welcome opportunity for actors to continue to ply their trade. Laurence Olivier visited the town, as did Donald Wolfit and John Gielgud.
After the war, amidst increasing competition from cinemas, audience numbers fell. The building was sold to the Cheltenham Corporation but, in spite of their best efforts, they could not make it pay its way so they passed it on to a consortium of businessmen. They fared no better so in June 1959 it was announced that The New Theatre & Opera House would close.
However, a few townspeople were determined to save Cheltenham's theatre. They formed the Cheltenham Theatre Association and set about raising funds and securing the support of the local authority. In less than six months they were open again and by May 1960 they had new fittings, a new company and a new name.
The Everyman was chosen as the new name to indicate that this was theatre for all. Instead of acting as a touring theatre the Everyman hired its own staff of actors and technicians and became a repertory company.
Cheltenham's audiences had the good fortune to watch young stars in some of their first public performances. Steven Berkoff played at the Everyman early in his career, and Harold Pinter performed under his acting name. Actors such as Windsor Davies and Penelope Keith worked at the Everyman and regular theatregoers enjoyed watching their progress.
By the end of the 1970s the building was showing its age and, in 1983, a £3 million repair and refurbishment scheme began. This renovated the delicate auditorium and the entire backstage area was rebuilt. The catering facilities were upgraded and extended.
In the mid 1990s repertory theatre was failing to attract big enough audiences to sustain the Everyman and so the theatre returned to its roots and became a touring theatre once more.
Presenting an exciting variety of entertainment the Everyman continues its proud 113 year tradition of truly being Gloucestershire's Theatre