This story starts in 1925, when the Rev Kenneth Rawlings arrived in Lewes as rector of St Michael’s church. He formed the Lewes Players in 1929, later campaigning to establish a permanent theatre for the group. However, his pacifism – as the Second World War began – resulted in many local people turning against him and his ambitions. Despite this, he managed to buy an old chapel in Lancaster Street for £400, thanks to donations including a sizeable contribution from John Maynard Keynes. The building was officially a private club rather than a place of public entertainment, hence the formation of the ‘Lewes Theatre Club’ to run the Lewes Little Theatre in 1939.
This month, the group is celebrating the anniversary of its creation with a show containing highlights from some of the 500 plays and musicals that its members have performed since the days of Rev Rawlings. In addition, club member Paul Myles has written The Genesis of a Theatre, which tells of the theatre club’s history. It’s a 24 page stitch-bound referenced article with images of letters by Keynes and programmes of early productions, available from the theatre club for £2.50.
The Play's The Thing runs from Sat 11 until Sat 18, with tickets available via 01273 474826.
First published in Viva Lewes magazine issue 97 October 2014.