How lucky are we to have a real, proper theatre right here, in the heart of Cheadle Hulme?
Players Theatre has been established over 90 years. The theatre, on Anfield Road, almost opposite the Kenilworth, and just past Cheadle Tyre and Auto, boasts a 104-seat auditorium, with disabled facilities and access (including a loop system). There’s also a licensed bar, kitchen, coffee lounge and ample parking – everything you need for a fantastic, inexpensive and local night out!
Formed as an amateur dramatic society by a group of friends in 1924, plays were originally staged in the Parish Hall on Church Road. Membership grew steadily throughout the twenties and thirties, until the war when, obviously, things lapsed. By 1945, the Players strove to get going again, and at the first AGM since 1941, chose plays and began rehearsals. They joined the Manchester and District Drama Federation – soon they began to win trophies (something which still happens regularly today!) Social events were also introduced – again, a tradition which continues. Rumour has it that some of the younger members would nip out to the Church Inn, returning for food later. Tut tut!
As the Players’ society grew – both in size and popularity – members began to think about having a theatre of their own. By 1947, two ex-army ambulance shelters were bought, followed by a plot off the then dirt track of Anfield Road. Work began in 1949 and cost £847 – loaned by the members, who also did the work. It was 1955 before a kitchen was added and a stage built – and changing facilities were finally provided.
However, problems arose as the council refused to accept the theatre as a permanent structure, so in 1965 the walls were bricked in. A loft room – facilitating sound and lighting – was also added, the kitchen was extended and a green room made. Even back then, the sets were quite superb, thanks to Mike Rhodes who still advises today. Improvements to the gritty, pot-holed Anfield Road were desperately needed as the Players’ popularity and reputation grew. Once more, the members stepped up, raising funds to resurface the road and car park. Fast forward to 1977, when a bar was built and the foyer vastly improved – as befitted such a popular theatre. The car park was finally tarmacked in 1983.
Despite all the hard work of the members, by 1985 it was decided the theatre needed a complete refurb. This was quite some undertaking. The reinforced concrete ceiling had to come down, along with the old heaters. New toilets were installed and the drainage improved. Radiators were fitted, changing facilities improved, wardrobe altered and the stage extended. The auditorium was given a raised area with proper theatre seats. The kitchen and electrics were modernised. Sound and lighting were updated, there were new carpets and the theatre was completely redecorated. Most of the work was carried out by the members, who also raised the funds required – and completed in just 13 weeks! The decorating was done by the local Mathers Decorators – Steve and his dad, John. Steve’s still in business and still works to the same high standards!
This wonderful ethos of involvement and team-spirit from all the members continues to this day. New members are made very welcome – and there is also a very successful youth section. Membership is surprisingly inexpensive, and members can take part in any aspect of the theatre AND get tickets to all the plays. It’s a fantastic hobby and something a little bit different. Chatting with the members, it’s clear to see they love their theatre and their hobby. Ages range from 12 upwards – there really is something for everyone.
Refreshingly, those who do want to tread the boards CAN – even if they’ve no experience. If they’re not quite sure, they can dip their toe in the water with ‘one act’ plays at festivals. Most are completely bitten by the bug – and some even go on to act professionally. There’s also a fantastic social side to the Players. Events are added and varied each year but always include two walks – which involve a pub lunch, and to which dogs are welcome. There’s usually a low-key event at the opening of the season and other popular socials have included a Halloween themed Fright Night, Mr & Mrs, Call my Bluff and Christmas events. January will see a Room 101 event, April a Grease singalong and later next year a ‘Captain’s Table’ themed four-course meal is planned. The end of the season in June is always marked by a barbecue along with karaoke and dancing.
If you’re still not convinced that joining is for you – seriously? How could you NOT be?! – then don’t miss out on tickets for the plays. You’ll be blown away by the quality of the acting, set, costumes – in fact, everything. As we said earlier – everything you need for a fantastic, inexpensive and local night out!