We opened to the public in October 2019. The restaurant and bar were open a few days a week and the shows that we put on, were in the newly cleaned up and restocked theatre. This was the inspiration of the four directors, Gary, Charlie, Rodger and Phil. The aim was to make the theatre a community hub, bringing both a wide variety of quality cultural activities to local people as well as providing the space for the local community to exhibit, perform and practice.
In the new year, our success continued with a huge range of shows, classes, exhibitions and clubs. The two small backrooms on the ground floor were knocked together and a small kitchen added. This new space was named the Watercress room and provided yet another space to hire for functions or community activities. The theatre hosted a show for young people with disabilities, workshops for refugees, as well as shows by celebrities such as comedian, Simon Brodkin. We were on a roll!
In March, as lockdown was announced, we had to cancel sold out shows and put on hold all our activities and classes. The restaurant and bar were closed and the building shut up.
Moving into the long hot summer, we began a take-a-way service from the Watercress room. Looking at the theatre, we started to plan how to provide a cultural service, differently, to get us through these difficult times.
Gary used the time in lockdown to enhance the theatre with new lighting, a star cloth backdrop and new look stage. Enquiries to film and live stream from the theatre began to come in and several events were held. The biggest challenge however, was to find a way to safely stage a live performance with an audience.
After careful consideration and a lot of planning, the small car park at the rear of the theatre was fenced off and a small stage put in one corner, to become an outdoor theatre. We worked out that we could safely have 70 people seated in this area and drinks could be served at the tables, in line with regulations. After a few wobbles with the weather, we managed to put on several shows in what is now referred to as our Courtyard theatre. Each show was sold out, as people were keen to return to live entertainment!
After the rules were relaxed a little, we were finally able to host a show in the theatre itself. With careful planning and our fingers crossed, we put on a comedy night to a packed audience.
We are building in resilience, to cope with any set backs that might come our way, but we are fighting hard to keep a live performance presence in Carshalton!