Originally transformed from a Market Hall into a 500 seater theatre in 1946, The Playhouse Theatre was Weston’s second theatre to the popular Knightstone pavilion and saw major stars performing over the years such as Frankie Howard, Ken Dodd, Cecily Courtneidge and many more. A devastating fire broke out in August 1964 resulting in the theatre needing to be rebuilt becoming the 664 seater venue which we know and love today - with improved facilities to host a wide variety of larger productions including ballet and music, drama and musicals.
Set in the centre of Weston-super-Mare, The Playhouse programme of events includes around 350 performances a year, attracting over 110,000 customers to the venue. The quality, range and diversity of the events has established the theatre as the home of live entertainment in Weston.
The theatre regularly sees local schools and performing arts groups take to the stage for annual productions and dance festivals.
The Playhouse is managed by Parkwood Theatres working in partnership with North Somerset Council.
In the early 19th century, it was just wide enough for a single cart, and was lined on the eastern side by a ditch containing withy and watercress beds. There were just a few thatched cottages along the road, surrounded by scattered farmhouses with the Parish Church to the north. The town of Weston grew and spread out from this village centre. Most of the growth took place in the mid 19th century and it was natural that the High Street should become the town's main shopping area, as traders moved in to cater for the growing population.
An open-air produce market operated on this site from 1825. Poultry, butter, bread and fish were available and livestock were slaughtered on site to provide fresh meat. The Market Hall was replaced by a larger building in 1869. In 1899 a new terrace of shops was built along the road frontage and the building was given a new design by local architect, Hans Price.
By 1946 the Market was no longer used and it was decided to convert the building into a 500 seat theatre. Hessian drapes disguised the walls and a false ceiling was fitted. It became 'The Playhouse' and was Weston's second theatre after the popular Knightstone Pavilion. In the early 1960s, the theatre underwent a refit and the hessian drapes were replaced with panelled walls and a new ceiling. All tastes in entertainment were catered for, from ballet and classical music, to drama, farce, comedy and one-man shows. The Playhouse has seen many major stars in its time - Frankie Howerd, Ken Dodd, Bob Monkhouse, Leslie Crowther, Brian Rix, Dickie Henderson, Terry Scott, Richard Todd, Peter Graves, Cecily Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert to name but a few.
Fire broke out at the Playhouse on the night of Friday 21 August 1964. It destroyed all but the front and side walls, both of which were unsafe and had to be subsequently demolished. Tenants from the homes lost all their possessions. It was described in the press as 'The worst fire in Weston since the Second World War'
The Playhouse was re-opened in 1969. The final cost was £230,000. For the first time Weston had a theatre that could easily stage a wide variety of productions, from ballet and music to opera and drama. The stage is 59' x 28' and the cleverly designed orchestra pit may be covered to form an apron stage or floored over at stalls level for additional seating. The auditorium seats 664. The decorative panels on the frontage were the conception of London sculptor, William Mitchell who also commissioned work for Liverpool Cathedral. The first production was Let Sleeping Wives Lie starring Brian Rix.