History

Picton Little Theatre Incorporated is a registered Charity (Number CC41189
) owned by its members and has been home to Picton Drama Club for 50 years.

The theatre can accommodate 100 people in the Auditorium and is available for hire by Community Groups, touring Acts or Commercial organisations.

A History Thumbnail

Our Unique Building.

We have been unable to establish the exact year in which the Little Theatre was built. Known locally as the Forrester’s Hall, best estimates are somewhere around 1885/86 when the Picton branch (formed in 1874) of the Forrester’s Lodge was able to build its own headquarters.

At some point in time, the building became the property of the New Zealand Labour Party, who were the owners when Picton Drama Club took up residence, in the first instance as sole tenants with a rent to buy arrangement, when in 1982 the purchase was finalised.

Jenny Macdonald, in her column “Tales of Old Picton” which ran in the local paper, “Seaport News, said;

“The Ancient Order of Foresters was first mooted in 1865, with a gathering being held at the Rifleman Hotel (now the Crow Tavern) but it wasn’t until 1874 the “Foresters Court” named Clarendon Court 5654 was initiated and it is thought that the Forester’s Hall was erected around 1885.

To Picton, over the years, the Forester’s Hall has filled many useful stations, meetings, numerous social gatherings, weddings, grand receptions for visiting dignitaries, including Sir Charles and Lady Ferguson in 1926. The Plunket Society used the hall prior to its own rooms being built. In World War I it was used as a recruiting station.

The Ancient Order of Foresters affirms the words “We assemble to promote the social happiness of our brethren and relieve our minds occasionally from the pressure of care with temperate conviviality.” 

How did we come to own the Little Theatre?

From the “Picton News” July 1964

In the winter of 1953, a meeting was called by Mr T.A.Tarrant to form a Drama Club. From this emerged Picton Drama Club, and a long tradition was established.

Initially, the Club held rehearsals in the Regent Theatre, thanks to Mr R Dawkins, the proprietor, but on the Regent changing hands in 1957, the Club moved to Flood’s Joinery in Kent St , for rehearsals, but freezing temperatures drove them to the home of Mr & Mrs T.R Harrison.

Play readings were held once a month in the Methodist Hall, until in 1958 they obtained the use of rooms behind the Marlborough Express Newspaper office (which was on the land now occupied by the “Z” Petrol Station).

Always in the background was the goal of having their own premises.

In 1962 the Picton Borough Council offered the Club a section of land and plans were afoot to build a theatre and plans were underway. when the newspaper advised the Club their tenancy was finished. A member suggested the Club approach the owners of the Forrester’s Hall, the New Zealand Labour Party. The outcome of this was a lease to buy agreement.

 When the Club opened its own Little Theatre to the public on 22nd July 1964, the Mayor of Picton, Mr A.E.Greig said  “With only a little money and a lot of hard work, the Picton Drama Club had earned everything it possessed by it’s own efforts and also provided the town with an asset”

The first play performed by the Drama Club in it’s own Theatre, was “Crystal Clear” by Philip King and Falkland Cary

ScanCrystal Clear Cast 1964

Extract from the newspaper report on the opening play. The reporter J.E.L gave a full two column report

Picton Drama Club scores Well With “Crystal Clear”In New Little Theatre

Last night in the Picton Drama Club’s new Little Theatre a full house laughed its way through the first presentation of Falkland Cary and Philip King’s “Crystal Clear”.

Everthing was auspicious for this special opening night – the culmination of years of vision, effort, saving and sheer hard work. The audience was highly appreciative of the new interior of the theatre. With its fresh colours, rich green velvet drapes and stage curtain and fine acoustics. Flowers, indoor plants, decorative designs, brightly lit foyer – all gave a welcoming glow, while the very effective wall heaters made the welcome even warmer.

The play “not really a farce, but rather a broad comedy, written with the utmost good humour”

A trace of first night slowness disappeared as the pace of the action quickened.

Christopher Griffiths as Craig Shore, handled a passive, therefore a difficult role, with ease —– and when the worm finally turned, he accomplished the transition with distinction.

Penny Matthews was a sympathetic character and Joan Freeth played it with a nice balance between restraint and growing frustration. She looked the part, moved well and freely and succeeded in giving a well rounded characterisation. She it was who brought out the pathos underlying all good comedy.

The plot revolves around Jane Ann Shore and possibly the success of the play stands or falls on this part. Marie Perano, last night, was all one could have hoped for in a termagant. —–this actress has a professional grasp of timing and “pointing” her lines; she was never at any time less than complete mistress of the situation. Her volte-face was accomplished with equal conviction.

Mrs Cronely the crystal gazer, was acted by Joyce Greenfield with considerable elan, and as a foil and contrast to Jane Ann. —she added a great deal to the lightness of the play and her duo with Jane Ann round the crystal ball was possibly the highlight of the evening.

Willie Wilkinson was a character well contrasted with the aggressive Jane Ann. John Tobin brought to it a soft pleasing accent and very agreeable manner ——-though in the drinking twosome with the Visitor the slowness was a little too apparent.

When Terry Madsen as the Visitor burst in the play lifted. He was sure, convincing and completely at home, as one has come to expect of the experienced actor —— and he gave a resounding ring to the last triumphant word of the play.

Picton Drama Club has long held a reputation for quality in production, acting and play selection. The producer, Joan Lyon (whom we would have liked to see at curtain call) is to be congratulated upon this successful departure into broad comedy.