The Questors Theatre
- Original design
- Norman Branson, 1964
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
Under the leadership of a keen amateur actor, Alfred Emmet, the Questors was formed 1929. They performed in various venues until in 1933 they made their home in a disused 'tin' church building in Mattock Lane, Ealing. Even in pre-war days The Questors developed a reputation as an experimental theatre, and they managed to continue to mount performances during the war, including touring to the bomb damaged East End of London.
After the war, the group became a limited company and an educational charity, and managed to buy the freehold of the site. In 1952 they started to plan an ambitious redevelopment of the site and raise funds towards the building of a new theatre, the first theatre building to built from scratch since before the war. Designed by Norman Branson the designs for a flexible auditorium, capable of a variety of staging arrangements, featured in many architecture and theatre periodicals of the day. Rehearsal rooms were also built, including the Stanislavsky room, now our Studio Theatre. The foundation stone was laid by members of the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1958, and it was formally opened by Dame Edith Evans in 1960 as plans to build the main theatre space progressed.
When opened in 1964 Questors was then a revolutionary new style of theatre design and attracted considerable attention in the press and on television, with a Gala Performance attended by H.M The Queen Mother. It has an adaptable stage, which can be a proscenium arch theatre, an in the round theatre, or a thrust stage theatre with either a full thrust or part thrust in the space which, in a conventional theatre, would be the pit or stalls. The Chichester Festival Theatre is of a similar design, but is not as adaptable. This type of theatre had been talked about since the 1930s, with director Sir Tyrone Guthrie being one of the first to attempt stage forms out side of traditional proscenium arch theatre in Edinburgh in 1948. Guthrie served as Questors' president in the 1950s and went on to experiment with theatre forms in Canada eventually building a theatre to a similar design to the Questors in Minnesota.
The company's name relates to the perpetual ‘quest’ to produce good theatre of all sorts, the classic, the rare and the new. The Questors has always searched for new plays to produce, and over the years has presented various New Plays Festivals and competitions. The first version of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ was performed here, and playwrights such as James Saunders, Danny Absie, Jimmie Chinn and Kneehigh's Carl Grose have all had works premiered at The Questors. A wide variety of arts professionals started their careers at the Questors including author/broacaster Michael Rosen, Stage Director Declan Donnellan (Cheek by Jowl) and long serving Blue Peter presenter Connie Huq.
Most recently, Henry Lewis, began his career in The Questors Youth Theatre, where he created and staged the earliest version of what eventually evolved into the hit West End comedy 'The Play that Goes Wrong'. His Mischief Theatre Company have had enormous success in the West End and On Broadway, including winning an Olivier award for Best New Comedy of 2015. This was derived from Michael Green’s Coarse Acting Plays which The Questors performed with great success at the Edinburgh Fringe, and then at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where they were seen by H.R.H The Prince of Wales.
As recently as January 2018, The Questors produced 'Sleepers in the Field' a previously unperformed play by RSC playwright and long term Questors member Peter Whelan ('The Accrington Pals', 'The Herbal Bed'), this received a glowing review from Michael Billington in The Guardian. The Questors' current president is Dame Judi Dench who recently consented to having the playhouse renamed the Judi Dench Playhouse in her honour.