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The Progressive Players were founded in 1920. In 1939, founding members Ruth, Sylvia and Hope Dodds generously provided the money to purchase a vacant site facing Saltwell Park, together with adjoining No.3 Saltwell View, and build the Players’ own theatre.
The Little Theatre is believed to be the only playhouse built in Britain during World War II and to this day it remains Gatehead’s one theatre. It opened with a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in October 1943 and since then the site has remained home to the Progressive Players who now produce ten plays a year.
Closed during the pandemic, funding was completed on an extension, creating a new rehearsal room above the auditorium known as ‘The Studio’. This facility has exactly the same dimensions as the main auditorium stage meaning the transfer from rehearsals to final production is much smoother than was previously possible.
The new space is acoustically isolated from the auditorium and stage allowing rehearsals to proceed even during a performance and was designed to be in keeping with the look and feel of the original theatre. Fitted with modern lighting and sound systems, the rehearsal room has the latest connectivity and networking capabilities.
New steel windows were required to replace the originals at the theatre. Clement W20 steel frames were chosen, polyester painted in Jet Black (matt). The two modular bay windows at the front of the building are particularly striking and the choice of glass was important. SunGuard SuperNeutral 62/34 was chosen for the outer pane, offering very high natural light transmission while ensuring energy savings through solar protection and thermal insulation, krypton gas was used for the centre of the pane and 4mm of toughened Planibel Grey was used for the inner pane.
The newly refurbished Little Theatre will not only be used for the Progressive Players' rehearsals, visiting hires and local community groups, but it is also hoped that it will eventually accommodate a youth theatre group.
Site: Little Theatre, 1-4 Saltwell View, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear NE8 4JS
Architect: Matrix Architecture, 8-9 Brenkley Way, Blezard Business Park, Newcastle upon Tyne NE13 6DS
Contractor: Meldrum Construction Services, Pantheon Building, Lancaster Road, Dunston NE11 9JW
Specification: Clement W20 suite of steel windows
Colour: RAL 9005 Jet Black (matt)
18mm glass units, consisting of 6mm toughened SunGuard, 8mm krypton and 4mm toughened Planibel Grey
Clement W20 bespoke steel windows are manufactured from hot rolled steel window and door profiles generally in compliance with BS 6510 Revision 10 Nov 2020 which are produced from 98% recycled steel source material. Hot dip zinc galvanised to EN ISO BS:1461 and with a polyester powder coat paint finish to BS:6497 2005 EN 13438 2018.
Photography taken and provided by Robbie Carruthers, Chairman, Little Theatre.