HISTORY OF THE PLAYHOUSE
The Cecil Hepworth Playhouse ("The Playhouse" or "CHP") was originally constructed by Cecil Hepworth in 1899 and was part of one of the first film studios in the country. By 1900 the Hepworth studio was producing over 100 films a year. By 1914 Walton had become one of the three major film studios in Britain.
The Playhouse has been used for local community arts since the 1920's and as a Theatre since 1925.
Nettlefold Studios bought the film facility in 1926 and continued making movies until 1961. You can watch many of the films produced at the studios on Talking Pictures Channel 81 on Freeview.
The CHP is the last remaining building of the original studio complex and housed two captured German U boat generators which were used to run the film studios. The Theatre has been home to many amateur societies and groups over the years producing shows, plays, dance, film festivals, youth theatre and more, and it is still a valuable community venue on many levels such as social, mental and physical health, the protection and continuation of a culture, the history, learning a career path e.g. acting, directing, lighting, sound, costumes, scenery and much more.
Amateur Theatre groups and their physical theatres are under threat. Smaller theatres are being closed or redeveloped and this makes them too expensive for amateur groups and communities to use.
In 2022, Elmbridge Borough Council, the owners of the Playhouse, proposed to close the theatre in spring 2023. After a resounding protest from many thousands of local residents and others, a Charitable Trust was formed to take over the management of the theatre from April 2023, after agreeing a 15 year lease from the Council.
Being a registered charity, the Trustees of the management organisation actively promote the involvement of members of the local community by providing volunteering opportunities to help with the running of the theatre, as well as assisting aspiring performers to engage with suitable groups where they may develop their skills and achieve their ambitions.