Nestled in the quaint backdrop of Cheadle Hulme’s sleepiest of streets, Chads Theatre has captivated audiences with its unique charm, dramatic ambience and repertoire of entertaining productions since opening its doors to the public in October 1959.
“I love acting; it’s so much more real than life.” Oscar Wilde was a man of many wise words, and aforementioned quote from the much-celebrated playwright and poet succinctly outlines why many harbours a passion for amateur dramatics; expressive arts are a creative outlet for budding performers seeking an escape from authenticity and legitimacy of everyday life.
The entertainment industry within contemporary society is inundated with blockbuster movies and television streaming sites, with the majesty of live theatre sometimes begrudgingly left behind; many forget that many stars of the silver screen honed their skills on the stages of their respective amateur drama societies before embarking on a personal crusade for stardom.
Chads Theatre, originally known as Cheadle Hulme Amateur Dramatic Society, members moved the group to the existing premises, with the recently-renovated facility boasting a brand-new roof, enhanced lighting and top-of-the-range audio equipment, as the current crop of members and acting enthusiasts strive to write their own chapter in the history of the much-loved local landmark.
David Oliver, member at Chads Theatre, enthused:
“It’s not something to just fill the time, it’s like running a small business in lots of ways. The social side of it is great, as well as the camaraderie and the training you receive from listening to others; you have the opportunity to learn the DIY and technical elements of the productions, even the publicity and financial side – being part of the team is extremely rewarding. The members of the company have a common interest, which makes us great friends.”
Many will have experienced trips to the theatre and enjoyed watching the final product as an audience member, but the work to bring the script to life isn’t immediately obvious to a punter, as highlighted by member and director, Hamish Lawson:
“The end product is always the production of the play, but the work involved is huge: A play needs to be selected dependent on what is available for performance (many of them aren’t), casting needs to be completed and directors need to be found. The director will then need to liaise with the technical support staff: sound and lighting technicians, set designers to construct the stage, wardrobe to clothe the actors, specialist props department, stage manager to run the show during performances, front of house to man the bar, staff for the box office, house managers; as you can see, it takes a lot of work to put on one play, yet we continue to put on nine plays in one season alone.”
Chads Theatre has strong historical foundations to support lofty expectations; the society acknowledges the importance of self-improvement for each of their performers, with the hard work often reflected in the final product, a sentiment echoed by Hamish Lawson:
“It’s incredibly satisfying when the performances come together; people leave the building saying ‘that’s fantastic’ and our performances truly blur the line between amateur and professional theatre. We don’t perform just for fun, we do it to achieve.”
In amongst the seven mainstage plays per season, the society’s Youth Group are presented with an opportunity to showcase their skills on the focal platform; Chads Theatre place an importance on presenting young performers with the opportunity to develop diverse skills that can be applied within the realm of amateur dramatics and working life, as explained by David Oliver:
“The Youth Group is a very important part of Chads Theatre; our members are given professional tuition during their time with us and some progress onto the main stage. If we need a young person to feature within one of the casts alongside the adults, then they’ll come from our youth set-up. My daughter was a member and is now a company accountant and has to address large groups; she was quite a shy person when she first joined and has since told me that although she has no desire to perform now that she’s older, her involvement as a child with Chads Theatre gave her the confidence to present in her professional career – the group has added benefits other than those associated with the stage.”
Irrespective of whether motivation for joining Chads Theatre is driven by an urge to see your name in lights, or to pursue a new hobby, prospective new members can enjoy a trial-period of 2-months, before deciding whether they would like to enrol. With a whole host of non-acting positions available, regardless of your prior experience, the Chads Theatre team are keen to welcome new members, irrespective of age. Last year, an 84-year old joined the society and incorporated his knowledge from his time working with computers and electronics to assist with the sound and lighting department.
David mused: “I bet he wishes he’d joined years and years ago, it’s just his thing and he’s doing extremely well.”
Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 play Communicating Doors is the latest play to grace the stage at Chads Theatre, with the director Hamish Lawson clearly excited as the opening night draws closer on 18th May:
“It’s an ingenious, comic thriller; Ayckbourn is probably this country’s most prolific playwright and this particular play’s theme is time and time travel, with time switching between 1999, 2019 and 2039. Although I’ve directed this play before, it’s been a fun challenge and I look forward to seeing how the play works in this theatre; I’m sure the audience will like it.”
To book tickets for Communicating Doors, please visit www.chads.co.uk
For more information about the plays and membership