The Oasthouse Theatre

RaTS was founded back in 1948 and, until the society acquired its own theatre, it performed in St Margaret’s Church Hall (demolished in 2001). The Oasthouse (over 160 years old) belonged to local landowner and farmer, Jack Clark. The Rainham Theatrical Society acquired the Oasthouse in 1961 and set about converting it into a theatre.

Its doors opened to the public on 8 Nov 1963, with a production of Billy Liar. As the curtains opened, a ripple of applause ran through the tiny auditorium. The dream of Rainham having its own theatre had become a reality! They were to become the First Oasthouse Theatre in the World. Brenda Pearson, who appeared in that first production, is still a member 60 years later! When the theatre first opened, it had a ladder for actors to reach the backstage area; certainly not allowed within today’s health and safety requirements - a stone staircase was built in the late 60’s. Over the years, there have been many improvements made to the facilities, benefitting both members and audiences alike.

When the theatre first opened, some lights and carpets came from the Globe Theatre in Chatham. Seating came from a local naval barracks canteen and the Globe Theatre. The current seating (which has been re-furbished twice) came from a cinema in Bexley. At first, the group rented the property but, in 1965, they were given the chance to buy the building for £4800. They set about securing a mortgage on it and the first repayment of £25 was made on 1 October 1966. At last, the RaTS had a theatre of their own and as the saying goes… the rest is history!

This month we will be hosting an evening with two of our Patrons: comedian and former BBC Radio Kent presenter, Paul Harris, and Nicholas Robinson, who played the young boy in the TV drama Goodnight, Mister Tom. Our 2024 panto Mother Goose then opens on 12 January. We are always delighted to welcome new members and, with 5 main productions a year, there’s always a chance to ‘tread the boards’. As a full member you can audition for all entertainment performed at the Theatre.

If you prefer to help ‘behind the scenes’, we can find plenty to keep you busy! Whether that is building sets, working in the wardrobe, pulling pints or pouring tea, you’re guaranteed a fun time! Everyone aged 16+ is welcome and, with a large percentage of members having been involved for over 20 years, you will soon become ‘one of the family’! Since doors first opened in 1963, there have been 59 pantos performed and over 340 plays, musicals and revues. Coming up over winter we have: Sat 11 Nov - An evening with our Patrons Fri 17 & Sat 18 Nov - Showstoppers Jan 12-Feb 3 (each Fri/Sat) - Mother Goose


Cover picture is of Rainham Oasthouse theatre production of Billy Liar in 1963. They celebrate their Diamond Anniversary in November 2023t



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