Shaw’s Playhouse2 Theatre set to celebrate 50th anniversary

Playhouse2 at Shaw, Oldham

Playhouse2 at Shaw, Oldham - Credit: Archant

Shaw’s Playhouse2 Theatre is celebrating 50 years in the business. Since our first visit back in 1966, we return to see how things have moved with the times and meet those who are centre stage

(Standing, L-R); Julian Smith, Catherine Sharp, Jill Smith, Steve Bennett and Barbara Micklethwaite

(Standing, L-R); Julian Smith, Catherine Sharp, Jill Smith, Steve Bennett and Barbara Micklethwaite (seated L-R); Peter Rosebury, Doreen Firth, Barrie Cottam and Ken Wright - Credit: Archant

A smouldering ruin was all that was left when a fire swept through the Crompton Stage Society’s first theatre venue over 50 years ago. Lancashire Life visited the amateur theatre group back in 1966 while they were preparing for the launch of their new venue in Shaw.

Located in former cinema, The Princess, it took three years and £16,000 to assist in the purchase and transformation of the venue into an auditorium fit for theatre goers. Now half a century later, the Playhouse2 venue still stands proudly on Newtown Street within the town centre, a beacon for all things dramatic, musical – and, most of all, for friendship.

‘It’s all run voluntary – except for the cleaner and the facilitators of the youth theatre,’ said Barrie Cottam, one of the artistic directors at Playhouse2. Since 1976, he has been part of an enthusiastic group of volunteers who maintain and run the theatre.

‘People were exhausted converting the old cinema into this theatre. Besides doing this, they were also still performing at other local venues - such amazing spirit. When I became involved I knew that this venue and spirit needed maintaining. Over the past 50 years, all these people have come along and made it what it is today.

Set building....John Ashworth, Brian Varley and Peter Ludlam

Set building....John Ashworth, Brian Varley and Peter Ludlam - Credit: Archant

‘To celebrate the 50 years, we want to start the new season in October with a bang. We’re hoping in September to hold a pre-season concert as a thank you to everyone, and organise a few social events for members.’

With 600 season ticket holders and an average of 10,500 people who come through the door each year, it’s certainly a popular venue. Led by chairman Barbara Micklethwaite, the group of volunteers now put on five performances per season as well as a variety of concerts and cinema screenings. There is also a youth theatre, run by Le Petit Artiste, which is entering its third successful year.

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‘The calibre of people in this theatre is amazing. The commitment over the years makes it what we are,’ said Barbara. ‘We do everything from painting to selling the ice creams. We have fun while we are here.’ One play in each season is dedicated to helping a local charity, with tickets sales plus raffle cash goes to them.

The next play in April, Separate Tables, will support the Centre for Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Development and the Mayor’s charity. Doreen Firth, a veteran of the Crompton Stage Society, will be performing in Separate Tables. Celebrating her 82nd birthday in May, she along with Ken Wright, has been involved in the society since the beginning.

‘I’ve been connected to the society since 1954 and Playhouse2 has progressed phenomenally. It’s really opened up to the community,’ she said. ‘There’s now such a wide variety of people involved, it’s great.’

‘The standards have increased over the years,’ added Ken, who alongside Barbara, both have MBE’s for services to the community in Oldham. ‘It’s amazing to look back at the old photographs and see how it has changed.

‘I was involved in the building and design of this theatre during the renovation. I remember when we opened, the Manchester Guardian produced an article saying how Crompton is a small pocket of culture nestling in the Pennines. I think we still are.’