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Celebrating 70 years of stars at Playhouse
PLAYBILLS, costumes, photographs, props and programmes will go on display next week to celebrate 70 years of theatre in Salisbury.
Public spaces at Salisbury Playhouse will be brimming with memorabilia from the theatre’s extensive archive to mark the platinum anniversary of professional performance in the city.
Alison Pascalidis, the theatre’s development manager, said: “We have got the most amazing archive and we thought it was high time that we got some of that material out and celebrated 70 years.
It’s quite unusual to have this material on site.”
The exhibition is being put together by volunteer archivists Arthur Millie and Jane Ware, who have been in charge of the material since the mid-1990s. It will be opened by Christopher Biggins, and Timothy West and Prunella Scales are expected next Saturday.
The exhibition will include memorabilia from shows in the cramped former Methodist Chapel in Fisherton Street, when actors taking the wrong turn backstage could end up in the coal hole.
In 1943, during the Second World War, this building became The Garrison Theatre and soon the troops were being entertained by the forces’ entertainment outfit ENSA. Among the performers were stars Peter Ustinov, Eric Portman and Edith Evans.
Once the war had ended, the theatre became the Salisbury Arts Theatre and then, in 1953, changed its name to Salisbury Playhouse. The plays changed every week and actors stayed on for as long as three years at a time.
An appeal for a new building was started and, in 1976, the current theatre was built at a cost of £750,000, with money raised from grants and numerous local fundraising events.
Big names who have appeared on the Salisbury stage include Stephanie Cole, George Baker, Kenneth Williams, Leslie Phillips and Ewan McGregor, the latter making the first of his appearances minus any clothes.
Mr Millie, who has edited a book of his own articles that will be on sale, said: “When you talk to actors about the old building they will all tell you how wonderful it was, but at one point it was open to the elements and the sets had to be painted sideways because there was not enough room where they prepared them. Throughout, it was one big family.”
Mrs Ware, who started going to the theatre in Salisbury as a child, added: “It became part of Salisbury and audiences loved the fact that it was their company.”
The week will include an audience with former theatre manager Alan Corkill at noon next Thursday, a conversation with former Playhouse photographer Peter Brown at 2pm next Saturday and a dinner and question and answer session with experts including Sonia Woolley at 7pm on Saturday.
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