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Case Study: Little Theatre - Gateshead

Project Synopsis: A fabulous new space created for this much loved theatre

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.

Little Theatre - Gateshead