Swansea Little Theatre has been continuously performing plays since 1924 and this year they are celebrating a very special anniversary. For many years they were a nomadic company, performing in various venues, but in 1979 after much searching they secured a permanent and much loved home at SA1.
The building was a disused and rather dilapidated old garage and car showroom in what was then a run-down part of the docks area. Long before the National Waterfront Museum and stunning transformation of Swansea Marina.
For nearly five years Swansea Little Theatre had been looking for a theatre of their own, but with planning restrictions, no parking and lots of other complications, it was proving impossible to find a suitable site. But then Swansea Council suggested the Oscar Chess Garage and it immediately ticked all the boxes. ‘Oh joy! The dream of a home was coming true’, but that was only the start of a tremendous amount of work to turn a derelict garage (with inspection pits and sumps) into a workable theatre. But the members rallied around and everyone worked tirelessly with the help of Manpower Commission, the Probation Service and qualified tradesmen and 40 years later, the building is a prized jewel in the heart of the creative quarter of Swansea Marina.
Of course, there were hold-ups and disappointments along the way, not least a fire that gutted part of the building and they had secured a grant to upgrade the whole building with new bar, foyer, box office, but no sooner was it complete than they had the flood of 2008 when every floor was under 3 inches of water – all the wood was damaged beyond salvage. Of course, the work hasn’t stopped, every year there is a major improvement to the stage or public area, including the latest LED stage lighting, new stage floor, disabled access, computers – the list goes on.
The building has welcomed many companies over the years, when the Grand Theatre was being refurbished, it became their home for three months. Eddie Izzard, Russell Kane, Jon Pertwee, Welsh National Opera, International Jazz Festival have all treaded the boards of the Dylan Thomas Theatre and there is now a wonderful band of theatre and dance companies who perform there every year.
“One of the abiding pleasures is welcoming the theatre-in-education company TNN who have been coming here for 22 years and never cease to amaze the thousands of children who see their shows”.
The company will be celebrating this milestone with a special party in July and count themselves lucky that with changing tastes and so many theatres struggling to survive they are confidently looking forward to the next 40 years.
For more information visit www.dylanthomastheatre.org.uk