- Category: Special features
The building on Henry Street which houses the theatre was originally the home of the Glossop Liberal Party. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Edward Partington on 1st August 1914. Building proceeded throughout the war years and was eventually completed in 1917 at a cost of just over £5,000.
After the second world war, Liberalism as a political force went into rapid decline and with falling membership it became increasingly difficult for the party to remain solvent, despite parts of the building being rented out to various organisations and firms and so it was decided that the only course open was close the building down. However there was an alternative!
A word here about the Glossop Repertory Company; there had always been a strong tradition of Amateur Theatre in Glossop in the form of the various Church societies, but with the new tide of liberalism sweeping the country, many involved in theatre considered that the Church authorities imposed too many restrictions on the content of productions and there developed a strong desire to be free of such censorship. So the idea of a purely secular society was born and the idea turned into reality chiefly by the determined action of Hilda Knight and a few others, including Robert J (Bob) Brown. The Glossop Rep. as it became known did not find life easy; they had to hire the Victoria Hall to stage their productions and all scenery had to be constructed and painted in the cellars of Community House (now demolished and the site occupied by Bradbury House). The sets were erected Sunday mornings ready for the dress rehearsal on Sunday evening. Productions ran for three nights: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Fridays and Saturdays were already pre-booked for dancing). In all, fifteen plays were staged at the Victoria Hall, each one directed, despite her being in poor health, by Hilda Knight.
Hilda was an indefatigable worker and it had always been her great ambition for the Society to have its own little theatre. So she and Travis Collier, the Society Chairman, managed to negotiate a deal with the Liberal Club Committee. For a three-year trial period the Repertory Society would be allowed to convert the upper floor into a theatre and also have use of the basement rooms for storage. The new Society would be called the Partington Players (out of respect for the Partington family) and the building would be managed by a joint committee under the name The Partington Social and Theatre Club--an organisation with no political affiliation. The year 1957 was spent on various conversions to the building's structure--all done by volunteers.! The first play, "A Hundred Years Old", was staged in January 1958. Sadly, after seeing her dream come true, Hilda's health deteriorated rapidly and, although she bravely directed the first four plays, she died shortly afterwards. At her funeral it was said of her in tribute, "She will not be one of those who have no memorial, for the Playhouse will be a living memorial to her and to her work."
Gradually the Society was able to start making much-needed improvements to the fabric of the building and to its interior. The roof was repaired thanks to a grant from Derbyshire County Council and efficient heating was installed. The Bar and Clubroom were tastefully refurbished and toilet facilities improved. But nowhere have the changes been more dramatic than in the theatre. The original seating was salvaged from the Savoy Theatre at Mottram, the stage lighting consisted of ordinary domestic bulbs set in square biscuit tins, the emergency lighting was gas-lit and the place was cold and draughty -- and wet -- throughout most of the playing season. Now there is a sound and lighting system that is the equal of any (and the envy of many) in the Northwest. The windows have been sealed and insulated, a special control room built at the rear of the auditorium and new seating and carpets installed. Also, thanks partly to a lottery grant we have had an external fire escape constructed so that the theatre can be evacuated quickly in case of fire.
Since the theatre opened in 1958 nearly every season has seen six productions and by October 2014, three hundred and fifty full length Partington plays will have been performed, regularly playing to near-capacity audiences. This, of course, does not include the hundreds of visiting productions, one-act plays and one-man/woman shows that have graced the boards over the years.
The Partington repertoire is very wide. Each season usually includes a pantomime and at least one comedy but the range of plays performed covers many different authors and styles. It is a rare season that does not include a vintage or modern classic. Harold Pinter, John Godber, Anton Chekov, J B Priestly. Alan Ayckbourn and William Shakespeare have all featured in the last two seasons along with a host of other brilliant writers.
Production standards are high, directors are very demanding and the actors and actresses put themselves through an exhausting rehearsal schedule which, supported by a dedicated technical team, gives Glossop a finished product that bears comparison to any theatre in the area.
The theatre is also home to the Workshop, which promotes drama skills to ages 7 – 18. It is tremendously successful and currently has over 80 members in 3 groups; Junior, Intermediate and Senior.
A pleasing feature of the last couple of seasons has been the number of young adults that have become involved in recent productions, but Partington Theatre is only too ready to welcome anyone interested in theatre, whatever age and whether experienced or not!
All auditions are open to anyone so if you see one coming up and you fancy having a go – well come along and try. You will be most welcome!