It may be one of the area’s smallest theatres, but Cleadon’s Little Theatre has unveiled a big new look as it brings performance back to the heart of the village.
Based just off Boldon Lane in Cleadon Village, The Little Theatre has been hosting performances at its current base since the 1960s. Its absence has been a miss for village life, as well as the performers who kept their skills honed with Zoom monologues and online plays during Lockdown.
Now, they’ll be able to step into the spotlight once more for a grand red carpet reopening which will unveil the theatre’s new look.
The 76-seater venue has had a dramatic makeover, with a new outdoor walkway, new heritage blue-coloured panelling, stage improvements, carpet and more.
It will all help to create a warm welcome when theatre-goers return for a three-night Variety Show, starting on September 30.
Chairperson Denise Wilson said the team – all volunteers – were delighted to be back doing what they love.
“We are raring to go,” she said about reopening night. “We are so passionate about the theatre and we’re really proud of its new look. We are one of the smallest theatres, but because of that we can create a great atmosphere, even when we’re not at capacity.”
She added: “More people have become aware of us in Lockdown. We don’t have a frontage on the main road, but people would walk past and say they didn’t even realise we were here. We’re hoping the new look will attract more people, the Variety Show has a great mixture and people need some fun and laughter after the past year.”
Improvement works, which also included creating a props room and improved dressing room backstage, have been paid for through grants and the theatre committee has applied for more funds for future works, including roof repairs.
Denise, a former drama teacher at Sunderland’s Hylton Red House School, said: “When the first Lockdown happened it was two days before we were going to perform Thrill of Love. We were all ready to go, so it felt like a disaster when we couldn’t go ahead and we wondered how we would manage through the pandemic, but grants have been a huge support.”
As well as hosting plays and musicals, the theatre is home to drama school Drama Geeks, run by ex-West End performer Charlotte Reid, and is also available for hire. It also has a resident band, TC and the Moonshiners.
The Cleadon Village Drama Club began life in August 1945 when it was established by amateur actor and producer George Sylph. They would perform at the local St Anne’s church hall, as well as at the Pier Pavillion in South Shields, before work began to establish their own clubhouse.
Land was bought in Boldon Lane in February 1952 for £73.18 from shipyard executive Harold White who had been using it for shipyard storage. It was used originally as a meeting place and for set building, but over the years a stage, lighting and a small bar were installed ahead of the Little Theatre hosting its first performance in 1969 – and it’s been entertaining audiences ever since.
The actual building was originally a redundant office in one of the Sunderland shipyards and was transported to Cleadon in 1952.