GTC is based in Gorleston, Norfolk performing regular musicals, plays, pantomimes and revues, often at the Gorleston Pavilion Theatre and is afiliated to NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association). Although predominantly an adult group, junior members are often involved where the production calls for it. Our productions are self-funding and all active members are required to pay membership and production fees, both to cover insurance and to contribute to runnig costs. An annual AGM is held, ususally in October. Other social events, not necessarily connected to a production, also form part of our activities and all memebrs are encouraged to participate and contribute.
The Gorleston Theatre Company evolved from the Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre’s drama group.
In 1951 the Shrublands drama group started life in an old farm building on Magdalen Estate in Gorleston. Financed by the Borough Council the centre was managed by a committee made up of Councillors and democratically elected centre members. The drama group was run by its own committee but relied upon the Borough Council for financial backing for their productions. This was like a loan with the profits going to help run the Centre. Eventually the running of Shrublands was handed over to Norfolk Council, which prompted a move towards independence for the drama group. Resulting in a new name, the Gorleston Theatre Company was born.
The Theatre Company now had bigger responsibilities. Not only did they have to produce good shows for the members and their public, they had to manage their own finances. The committee had to become more business-like so a treasurer was recruited to work alongside the Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary and other committee members.
Over the years there have been many hard working volunteers who have made Gorleston Theatre Company what it is today. Each year a handful of unsung committee members who plan shows and cajole others into helping.
From the very beginning the Theatre Company had something special. In those early days the Shrublands was run by Mr Macey, he was an inspiration for many people young and old alike. After helping members build the Shrublands theatre he spend many years persuading reluctant youngsters to help backstage and front of house, no one could refuse Mr Macey, he made it sound like fun, and it always was. Once you were there you were hooked and couldn’t wait for the next show to come along. The Drama Group was like one big family always laughing and having a good time, and always ready to welcome new members.
In those early days revues and musical shows were performed at the Shrublands Theatre and Pantomimes at the Gorleston Pavilion. This changed during the 60′s when the Pavilion was closed and use for storage. The Pantomimes transferred to a new home, the Floral Hall, later to become the Ocean Rooms. Although backstage facilities were cramped the shows were always energetic and colourful, thanks to Nellie Swires, Jo Raven and Ian Hogarth. Some may recall the Shetland pony climbing the stairs backstage to pull Cinderella’s coach, just one of the many special effects conjured up to thrill the enthusiastic audiences.
It was around this time that a brave venture was undertaken, a full-scale musical, The Pajama Game, performed at the Britannia Pier. With a cast of ‘thousands’ and a large orchestra under the leadership of Agnes Lucas, it was a run away success paving the way for Calamity Jane and Viva Mexico.
Like most amateur dramatic groups Shrublands had its ups and downs. Although these musicals were well received they were costly. To recoup losses the committee decided to return to the Shrublands theatre with a selection of revues and pantomimes written by members to save money. As the members had always made their own costumes and scenery it wasn’t long before the bank balance was healthy once more.
By this time the Pavilion Theatre was again open for business and so was Shrublands Drama Group. In January 1981 they triumphed with The Wizard of Oz, receiving rave notices and displaying house full signs. This led to the spring musical Oklahoma and Carousel the following year, both receiving acclaim.
The Pavilion had become home once more for the Christmas pantomimes and spring musicals, but drama was also flourishing with many plays being performed at the Shrublands Theatre. All was well again. But not for long.
With rehearsals in full flight, costumes and scenery made, Oliver was ready to open. The Pavilion was not. To everyone’s dismay the Fire Officer refused to issue a Fire Certificate because of faulty wiring. With much publicity and many frantic phone calls a new venue was found. Peter Jay’s offer of the Royalty Theatre, which had been turned into a cinema, was snapped up and everyone set about altering the production to fit the stage. The scenery had to be converted into free standing cut-outs and box sets, most of which were held in place by stage hands who were costumed for the first time. With publicity that couldn’t be bought and a sympathetic public we had another hit on our hands.
Our time at Shrublands was drawing to a close. Problems with storage space and the availability of rehearsals rooms set the Theatre Company on the road. A new home was found at Great Yarmouth College but it was not all plain sailing. Although the costumes and scenery could now be stored together, all painting for shows had to be done outside relying on good weather, which could not be guaranteed in December. Despite this productions continued and the Company prospered.
It was time to spread our wings again and return to the Britannia Pier. Testing the water with a musical revue it was decided that we should perform the Musical, Chicago. This was a big gamble as the theatre hire and professionally made scenery costs were high, but proved a truly worthwhile venture and was enjoyed by all.
Since then the Theatre Company has gone from strength to strength, building on a legacy from the past. With experienced older members and fresh young talent we have moved on into the 21st Century. Who knows what awaits us, but with the voices of the past ringing in our ears I am sure the ghosts of the theatre will sustain us. The future of Gorleston Theatre Company lies with you. On with the show.
Terry Wing, June 2005