Pre-history – Before 1946
After the end of the First World War, three amateur dramatic societies became active in and around the small town of Tonbridge. These were The Zingara Concert Party, the Tonbridge Amateur Dramatic Society and Tonbridge Little Theatre. There was also a professional repertory company – The County Players.
The County Players performed at the Empire Theatre, this company employed many quite well known professional actors and several ex-West End productions were staged. Due to financial difficulties, they closed just before the Second World War. The Empire, known by then as The Playhouse, finally closed in 1955.
The Zingara Concert Party was an informal collection of amateur entertainers. It was always somewhat disorganised and although some of its individual acts were judged to attain near-professional standards, it was often short of performers and when personnel began to move away the Party was dissolved.
Tonbridge Amateur Dramatic Society (TADS) began productions in 1922. The Society staged mainly light comedies as well as some popular productions that had featured in London’s West End. They adventurously took some of their productions to local villages, transporting the scenery and costumes by van with actors trailing along behind on bikes.
Two local schoolteachers, with the objective of producing classics and avant-garde works, were mainly responsible for running Tonbridge Little Theatre (TLT). In 1933, the club took over some old stables behind the Mitre public house in Hadlow Road and changed its name to The Mitre Theatre Club.
Because of their different personnel and the widely differing nature of their programmes there was rivalry, if not some rancour, between TADS and TLT. However, such differences quickly disappeared in 1939, when both societies were called to perform real life, wartime dramas and express courier service Sydney l Learn to drive, at the end of hostilities, it was decided to make a fresh start.
The two clubs agreed to merge in June 1945 to become Tonbridge Theatre Club (TTC), completing the formalities by January 1946. Largely, the merger was driven by TLT’s ‘ownership’ of the Mitre premises. The result was the birth of The Tonbridge Theatre and Arts Club – TTAC. l Phantom 4 Case
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