Find Out About Us!
Who We Are
Founded in 1940, we are a thriving, leading not-for-profit theatre company who stage between 10-12 plays a year in our very own unique 71-seat theatre in Brighton, East Sussex.
We are made up of a membership of volunteers who strive to produce a consistently high standard of theatre. We always welcome new members, so if you are interested in joining our exciting and vibrant company, whether you are interesting in acting, directing, lighting and set design, backstage work, or simply helping out on the theatre bar during shows, please visit the Join Us section of this website.
If you are under 18 you might be interested in joining our Youth Theatre - if so visit the Youth Theatre section for further information.
Please have a good look around our website in which you will be able to see information about our theatre including pictures of our past productions. Don't forget to check out the Forthcoming Productions on the front page for a listing of all our forthcoming shows to be sure that you don't miss out as tickets sell out fast!
Our theatre venue
We are lucky enough to own and manage our own venue right in the heart of central Brighton. Our venue consists of a 71 seater main auditorium with a proscenium arch stage, a fully licenced bar, and a downstairs studio performance area which is used for our DOWNSTAIRS@TheLittle productions.
All of our sets are made in house, and we are also fortunate to have our own costume store and workshop/garage space.
So who designs and builds the sets, rigs the lights, makes the costumes, mans the bar, cleans the building etc? - WE DO! We are a team of willing volunteers all passionate about our great little theatre!
A brief history of the building….
From 1790 onwards the site, and much of Castle and Stone Street was owned by a timber merchant from Shoreham-by-Sea called Thomas Penton.
The building was erected on the site in 1833 to serve as a chapel for Protestant dissenters. The first minister was a man called Gilbert Wiggins.
In 1853 the building was acquired by the Christ Church Schools Foundation and served as an infant school until 1884 when the school moved to a house in Crown Street (the house no longer exists). The school was a feeder school for the building which is now the New Venture Theatre.
1886 – 1894 the building returning to being a place of worship and was called Clarence Gardens Mission Rooms. During this period there is evidence that Anna Sewell (Black Beauty) and Samuel Butler (The Way Of All Flesh) worshipped here.
From 1895 to 1912 the building served as a School of Painting and Drawing run by two local artists Broadbridge and Goggins.
From 1913 to 1933 the school was taken over by Arthur Burleigh, another local artist. Some of Burleigh’s paintings are on view in Brighton Museum. There is a drawing in existence which shows the inside of the studio whilst it was in use as a School of Painting and Drawing.
From 1935 to 1938 is became known as The Clarence Gallery and was still owned and run by Burleigh.
In 1940 the Brighton Little Theatre Company acquired the building and it has remained as a theatre since that date.
Because of its association with artists and painting, the original name of the theatre was Brighton Little Studio Theatre, but this was dropped in the 1980’s and the current name Brighton Little Theatre was adopted.
A brief history of the company….
Seventy-two years of continuous productions began in 1940 when a group of young people whose shared love of theatre, met to produce and act plays before an audience. Initially the members met in a basement flat in Denmark Terrace in Brighton, but in time were able to acquire, to rent, the Studio Theatre in Clarence Gardens where the Brighton Little Theatre has had its home ever since.
This was war-time, of course, and casting plays had its hazards with the actors liable to receive their call-up papers at any time. One such actor was Leon Sinden and his place was filled by his cousin Donald Sinden who in his autobiography says that ‘he never looked back’ and that he “knew he had fallen among friends .. . . “ - as indeed so many of us have done since.
Notwithstanding air-raid warnings and other vagaries during the war, post-war austerity brought with it different challenges. Unexpected power cuts plunged performances into darkness with resourceful stage-crews producing candles within minutes, and on one occasion ‘humming’ “The Blue Danube” to compensate for the lack of the radio which was an integral part of the play.
The story of the theatre throughout those early days, and since then, has been one of enormous enjoyment and friendship coupled with the desire to provide an entertainment of the highest standard. This bench mark was set by the founding members and has been the springboard from which excellence has been aspired to .The choice of plays over the years has been diverse - from classical to contemporary, with 8 or 9 plays each year being produced. In more recent times, with greater facilities there have been additional opportunities for youth theatre groups, play readings and workshops etc alongside many social activities.
However, it appeared that this successful story would have a sad ending.
The rented premises are old and were in constant need of repair and general patching up, with limited resources in the bank. Then in1986 came what appeared to be an insurmountable blow - the Theatre needed a new roof. It was a desperate situation. There were many despondent committee meetings and much wringing of hands to try to resolve what seemed to be an impossible dilemma.
To add to the grief by this time the south wall had been pronounced unsafe. Something had to be done.
The property had been left in trust to the owner Miss Burleigh and a modest rent had been paid for many years. The then vice-president, Joan Fraser, went to see Miss Burleigh in her home and having had a number of conversations (overseveral cups of tea) was able to present to the committee an amazingly generous proposal which would enable the theatre building to be purchased on extremely generous, affordable terms.
This was an unimaginable opportunity to secure the future of the Brighton Little Theatre in its home in Clarence Gardens, but what a challenge!
From that moment on a major Building Appeal was launched and a frenzy of activity began, All the stops were pulled out. So much hard work was done by so many people over months of negotiations with scaffolders builders, city planners etcand endless meetings took place.
It took many months BUT together with the generosity of our members, sponsors, donors, grants and endless begging bowls-the freehold was purchased and the restructuring and repairs began.
The theatre, as it is today, has been re-designed, refurbished and many improved facilities add to everyone’s comfort. Not least of these is the very smart bar which provides an attractive meeting place for all our members.