Huddersfield Thespians’ History
Back in 1920, Sidney Crowther was discussing the Stockport and Marple Garrick amateur dramatic societies with James Gregson, then-manager of the Theatre Royal Huddersfield, and asked why Huddersfield couldn’t have something similar. They soon found there was enough local interest that they were able to form a Society, and the name Huddersfield Thespians was adopted in June 1920. Our first play followed in October that year.
As part of that first season, the Society staged ‘Mrs Warren’s Profession’ by Bernard Shaw, a controversial play which was at that time banned by the censor, and so could only be performed to audiences of private members, not the general public.
Naturally, this caused quite a stir in the town, and many more people got to hear about the performance as a result. This turned out to be a canny bit of marketing, and the Society’s membership swelled with people coming to see what all the fuss was about.
From this auspicious start, the Thespians have continued to perform plays in the area every year since 1920. Not even the Second World War stopped us! We estimate that since that first conversation back in 1920, the Society has staged over 600 productions.
Since the beginning, we’ve been keen to make our own sets and costumes, and our stage crew and wardrobe department are still an integral part of the society. It takes many different people to get a play onstage, all doing different jobs, and we’re always looking for people to get involved in all areas of production.
For the last 25 years, our plays have been performed at the Lawrence Batley Theatre. Initially, we used the main stage, but for the past few years all of our plays have been downstairs in the more intimate Cellar Theatre. We’ve found that, despite the challenges of the smaller space, many plays work well in the Cellar and the audience gets a real sense of being right there in the action.
We’ve always strived to offer a variety of work, from serious plays to comedy, from well-established classics to work by newer authors, and sometimes even plays written by our own members. In recent years, for example, we’ve performed classics like Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’, modern hits like Tim Firth’s ‘Calendar Girls’, but also new writing like Philip Meeks’s ‘Murder, Margaret & Me’ and our own adaptations of Grimm fairy tales, as well as extracts from Shakespeare in our outdoor ‘Shakespeare in the Park’.
We’ve an exciting range of plays coming up for our 100th Season, and a recent infusion of new blood into the society, we can look forward to many more years of quality theatre-making in Huddersfield.