Arden Theatre – Where Tom Burke Started His Career
AT the ARDEN THEATRE- Leslie Smith Drive, Faversham, ME13 8PW
First, a very brief history of Faversham’s only dedicated theatre.
In 1947 the Faversham Players was formed. They performed in various venues across the town. In the early 1970’s various members of the group decided that they must have their own theatre. Leslie Smith, a Faversham solicitor, offered a coach house that he owned which was close to the open-air swimming pool that Faversham citizens had raised money to build.
The coach house was converted into a 72-seater theatre with quite a nice front of house but no room backstage and a caravan outside for a dressing room – not good in the rain. It was named after Thomas Arden a Faversham ‘worthy’ in Henry VIII’s time, who got himself murdered by his wife and her man friend. The play ‘Arden of Faversham’ tells all about it. For nearly 20 years the Arden Theatre group were based in the coach house theatre then in 1992 work started on an indoor swimming pool next to the existing pool and the theatre was in the way, so a new 98 seat theatre was built with the aid of a grant from Swale Borough Council. But………….
It had only 1 dressing room off stage left, 2 tiny extremely cramped loos off stage right, no storage for scenery or costumes, a double height not very welcoming foyer and an entrance via the swimming pool entrance. This was very unsatisfactory so a series of improvements were made. One of the tiny loos became a paint and tool store, a garden makeover in 2003 enhanced the foyer, which was further enhanced by constructing a costume store above it, a dedicated Arden entrance was created and a container put in part of the garden for scenery and props storage, a small extra gallery dressing room was built above the existing dressing room and the steel gantry was installed in the auditorium to enable technicians adjust stage lights, etc in safety instead of balancing precariously atop a long ladder. And in a recent refurbishment the bar store was improved, the other unused tint loo removed to form a better store and the foyer and bar made much more welcoming.
Despite all this, performers have to go through the foyer to the toilets we share with the swimming pool and all performers regardless of age and gender have to share the same dressing room. There is no ‘green room’ and rehearsal space has to be found elsewhere when a production is taking place. There is nowhere inside the building for further improvements so a new extension has been designed. It will contain two dressing rooms, each with en-suite shower room with loo and basin. However, the partition between the dressing rooms can be slid open to form a rehearsal room/green room opening into the garden. Above this, in the large roof space will be a scenery and props store with a hoist to lift heavier items. This will enable us to have something happening all the time at the Arden. And…………….