Throwback Thursday: A Brentwood historian looks back at the fascinating history of Brentwood Theatre

Sylvia Kent shares the riveting tale of Brentwood Theatre. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Sylvia Kent shares the riveting tale of Brentwood Theatre. Picture: Sylvia Kent - Credit: Sylvia Kent

This week Enjoy Brentwood More’s history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle, Sylvia Kent looks back at the rich history of the Brentwood Theatre.

The creation of our Brentwood Theatre is a fascinating tale, a dream that initially involved a dozen or so members of the local arts council. As the idea blossomed, hundreds of volunteers began working tirelessly over fourteen years raising money to build the theatre at 15 Shenfield Road, Brentwood.

An earlier key supporter of the project was the late Margaret Hutton, an Essex County councillor way back in the late 70s. Situated right in the heart of the town, close to Wilson's Corner, Brentwood Theatre is now regarded as the Borough's jewel in its artistic crown.

More than forty years ago, Margaret laid down the principles behind the theatre concept and from 1978, the Friends of Brentwood Theatre strove to raise the considerable funds needed to build and run this professional theatre.

Gradually, the team of volunteers grew until more than 300 regularly gave their time and expertise to this amazing project.

The Brentwood Theatre Trust members worked hard campaigning and raising funds in many different ways.

Finally, their tremendous enthusiastic efforts paid off and the theatre became a reality, opening its doors to a full house in that winter's evening on December 2 1993.

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This was an emotional experience for so many people in the auditorium that evening.

The theatre thrived, attracting more than forty non-professional performing arts groups with seating for audiences of 100-176. In May, 1995 the theatre was the catalyst for the creation of the Brentwood Shakespeare Company. They presented A Midsummer Night's Dream to great acclaim, with a different Shakespeare play every year since then.

During 1996, Brentwood's Awards Evening was introduced and became known as the 'Brents' Award, sponsored by the local Gazette series. From the start, the Trust directors knew that some time in the future extensions would be required particularly regarding access for disabled performers; Also a storage area to replace the old porta-cabins would require more finance.

This has, indeed, been ongoing over the past 21 years, resulting in newly-built dressing rooms, an office, washrooms, kitchen and multi-space mirrors. A rehearsal area for use as an extra studio space has been vital.

Brentwood Theatre now hosts around 250 performances yearly, with an estimated 20,000 people through its doors.

Many shows often sell-out and the Box Office now benefits from on line-ticketing. Theatre-goers appreciate the work of so many committed volunteers,

Back and Front of House who ensure that the professional performances are maintained and that players, audiences and everyone are offered a warm welcome and a wonderful time in this remarkable building.

Details of forthcoming plays, musicals and productions are all listed on the Brentwood Theatre's website.

For more information and details of other interesting places in the Borough, do refer to BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS published by Amberley Publishing of Stroud.

ISBN 978-4456-9213-5 (print) or 978-1-4456-9214-2 (ebook).