The Electric Theatre is a vibrant multi-purpose venue featuring community and professional work in the heart of Guildford.
In 1913 handsome new Electricity Works were opened on Onslow Street to provide power for Guildford town centre. As demand for electricity grew, the works became too small and a bigger station was built.
The Electricity Works were retained as a distribution centre and all the town centre mains radiated from this point. Unfortunately after 1968 the building lay dormant (used only as a scenery store for the various theatre groups based in the area) and it was not until twenty years later that the building's potential as a theatre was recognised.
Prior to the existence of the Electric Theatre, local amateur theatre groups in Guildford had the use of what was an ex-Territorial Army garage in Leapale Lane. It was a 150 seater theatre, and at the time it came into use in the 1970s, was considered a state of the art theatre, even being featured on the popular BBC science programme Tomorrow's World. But three years after it opened, the building was demolished to make way for a new road.
CAFE BAR AND RIVERSIDE TERRACE
Relax by the River Wey in our cosy cafe bar. We have a range of cakes and snacks as well as hot and cold drinks, wine, spirits and beers.
The Electric Theatre Café Bar is a great place to meet friends, have a break from Guildford town centre, and relax by the River Wey.
Opening times are from 10am until 5pm or end of show on performance nights (excluding films).
With additional activities like colouring in and children's books, our Café is a great place for families in central Guildford.
We have complimentary Wi-Fi for all our Café Bar visitors, but please bear in mind if using your laptop that the tables may be needed if we're busy.
Thinking of organising an event? You can hire our Cafe Bar and catering services. Find out more about hiring our venue.
THE GATA CONNECTION
Drama groups then had the use of an old Salvation Army building, which opened in 1978 under the name of the "Bellerby Theatre" (named after Bill Bellerby, who has been an unfailing supporter of the arts in Guildford). In 1983 the lease of the Bellerby Theatre was taken up by Guildford School of Acting, which meant that local groups had use of it only in the college holidays.
GATA (Guildford Amateur Theatre Association) was therefore set up at this time as a lobbying group to represent the interests of over 20 amateur arts companies.
After much searching, fundraising and hard work by GATA and Guildford Borough Council, the Electricity Works was identified as a possible location.We eventually opened as a theatre on Saturday 18 January 1997 with a special performance of the Tom Stoppard play "On the Razzle" by the Herald Players.
THE ELECTRIC THEATRE (1997 ONWARDS)
The design project was undertaken by Council architects. The 1913 Electricity Works building houses the theatre space itself, with extensions housing the foyer, bar, restaurant, dressing rooms, Farley room and toilet facilities.
The auditorium has retractable seating for 210, a wooden sprung floor, an orchestra pit and first-class technical equipment. We are funded and managed by Guildford Borough Council with six full-time staff and a number of casual employees. The Friends of the Theatre also provide vital support, both financially and through volunteer work, which includes providing ushers for every performance.
We continue to fulfil our ambition to give hundreds of local amateur performers the chance to perform in a professionally-run, state of the art theatre, many of whom have gone onto further training and careers in theatre. Demand has also grown from professional touring companies and local businesses.
The theatre regularly welcomes well-respected professional companies including: Les Enfants Terribles; Henri Oguike Dance Company; Long Nose Puppets; and Lyngo Theatre. We also have a longstanding relationship with Theatre Tours International having received Under Milk Wood, Animal Farm and Austen's Women. We were also delighted to welcome "Morecambe" straight from the West End. Working closely with Guildford School of Acting, we also showcase the talent of the future.
WHAT ELSE DO WE DO?
We are home to a thriving youth theatre (The Man in The Moon), and work in conjunction with the Guildford Summer Youth Project to offer children the opportunity to put on a show in a week during the summer holidays. The backstage equivalent "Electric Works" coordinated by our technical manger, has been so successful that it has been franchised to Ireland!
The introduction of The Electric Theatre Family Festival in 2008 was met with great excitement by local families and continues to sell at over 90% capacity. The week, which takes place during February half-term, caters for children aged 0 to 12 and offers young audiences the chance to watch professional theatre productions encompassing the genres of dance, drama, mime, puppetry and music. We also offer free storytelling sessions, workshops accompanying the shows and our ever popular arty fun events.
As a popular festival venue, we welcome The Guildford Book Festival and in alternating years, The International Music Festival and The Guildford Spring Music Festival. Our annual Film Festivals also show a variety of classic, art house and world cinema.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL...
Famous faces who have trod the boards at the theatre include Stephen Berkoff, Maureen Lipman, Jane Fonda, and Jenny Éclair to name but a few! The youth theatre was also very happy to include the voice of Noel Fielding in their latest production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Hosting over 350 artistic events a year (plus workshops and special events) and over 300 non performance hires, we are proud to remain a thriving venue providing diverse entertainment for the town of Guildford and beyond.
REGISTERED COMMUNITY ASSET
The Electric Theatre was registered by the Council in 2016 as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), following a nomination by The Guildford Amateur Theatre Association (GATA). This gives communities a right to identify a building or other land that they believe is important to their community's social well-being, so that if ,for example, it comes up for sale, there is a six month period within which community groups can prepare a bid to buy the asset.
As the owner, the Council is only able to agree the sale of The Electric Theatre or grant certain types of lease after six weeks if no expression of interest is received from a community group. If we receive an expression of interest within six weeks, then six months is allowed to give the community time to prepare a bid. Community groups have the same rights as other bidders but no preference is given to the local community bid.
Last updated: 11 February 2016 09:14 AM