Published on February 20th, 2015 | by Alastair Gilmour0
All to play for
The star of the show is the theatre itself, as Alastair Gilmour discovers
It’s often called “the smallest pub in Gateshead” and though that might be open to dispute, there’s no arguing that the bar in the Little Theatre that faces the town’s Saltwell Park is one of the most welcoming.
The problem – and the beauty – is that it’s only open when there’s a production on for pre-theatre drinks, interval refreshment and post-performance catch-ups. But when there are 10 stage shows each year with runs of at least a week, there are plenty of opportunities for the general public to join in the entertainment.
Theatre-goers arrive well before the start of a show and there’s generally a fair old gathering of beer drinkers and wine-by-the-bottle sippers. The bar empties quickly when the second bell goes rather more urgently than the first one, as no-one is allowed to sit there until the interval or the final curtain – voices and clinking glasses travel surprisingly far.
The Little Theatre bar is run by Dave Duffy who volunteered a few years ago – his wife Maureen is in charge of Wardrobe. He used to drop her off for productions then pick her up but started to make himself useful as a bartender and drinks “fetcher”.
“Everyone here is a volunteer,” says Dave. “The Progressive Players is an amateur theatre group and the only paid staff are the cleaner and the caretaker. Apart from the door money, there is no other income for the theatre except the bar and ice-cream.
“I try and find as many interesting beers and wines I can – all bottled at the moment, but we always have Budweiser Budvar, Deuchars IPA and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord in stock – as well as premium brand wines and spirits.”
The Little Theatre is Gateshead’s only theatre. It was built during World War II, thanks to the foresight of sisters Ruth, Sylvia and M Hope Dodds who had a great interest in drama. Two years ago the fabric of the building was brought right up to date – including the bar and foyer – as a result of a bequest from former Low Fell resident Jim Ord who had emigrated to Canada. He left £114,000 in his will for that precise purpose.
The theatre is also let out to various groups, such as the Jumpin’ Hot Club and the Magic Circle. But a psychic society had to cancel its booking “due to unforeseen circumstances”.
For an evening’s entertainment, a few drinks and a splash of culture, the Little Theatre is a real star.
*The Little Theatre
Box office: 0191 478 1499
February 16-21: Playhouse Creatures by April de Angelis
March 23-28: The Dumb Waiter and Betrayal by Harold Pinter