We are The Wheatsheaf Players. Community Theatre in Coventry
The Wheatsheaf Players can trace their origins to the 1930's and the work of the education secretary of the Co-operative society. In early 1930's, the Society published the views of the secretary on the formation of a drama study group in their monthly magazine called 'The Wheatsheaf'. An initial meeting was then convened by the Education Committee on the 6th of June 1930 at West Orchard. This was followed by a meeting on the 16th where 'The Dramatic Study Group' was established under the auspices of the Education Department.
The very first public performance given by the new group were the one act plays 'The Dear Departed' and 'Escape'.
During the 1930's several Directors were involved with The Dramatic Study Group, including Miss Ella Geddes, who was eventually appointed as director. During this time shows were regularly performed at the College Theatre.
In 1942 after some difficulties with premises for the group caused by the horrors of World War Two. The group performed a play called 'Hay Fever' which was presented with a team of strong and capable actors. 'Crime at the Blossoms' was the Players contribution to the Coventry stay at home Holiday campaign, performed in the Memorial Park. 1942 also marked the year that started the Co-operative Festival in the Midlands. The Players first success was winning first place with the play 'In a Glass Darkly'. In 1943 they won again for the play 'Lights Out'.
From 1943, the group competed in the Coventry Civic Drama Festival. The festival was acknowledged at that time as the principal festival in the country. Thirty to Forty teams to perform every year. They rapidly established a festival standard, and were rarely out of the coveted first four teams. Playing on the final nights and won the major award more often than any other group. When the festival became a 'First Round' of the National Drama Festival, success followed success, second and third rounds often being reached. This culminated in 1955 when the group appeared in the English Finals at the Scala Theatre in London with a production by Ella Geddes called 'Birds of a Feather'.
During this time, regular full length productions were attracting a growing and appreciative audience at the College Theatre and a Junior Group was formed for training younger members. All this despite difficulties with rehearsal and storage premises. This was all caused by the Second World War and everything that followed, including a disastrous fire at the Upper York Street premises used by the group. In 1950 the name of the company was formally changed to 'The Wheatsheaf Players'. The Players were still working under the auspices of the Education Committee of the Co-operative Society and the old stabling at Brewery Street became their home. Shortly after they became established here, and a final successful production of 'A Day by the Sea', Ella Geddes retired.
Ella was replaced by John Boylan, who directed for a couple of seasons. Joan Malin took over from Boylan for the next eight years. During this time, the number of productions a year had been increased to four, including the Co-operative Festival at Sibree Hall. A youth group was again formed, and competed successfully in the Coventry Youth Festival. Once again, the Players reached the English Finals. This time with 'An Office for Profit' by Peter Preston which also won the Co-Op Festival at Stamford Hall.
In the 1960's, David Hewitt and Ron Povey succeeded as directors. Once again, The Wheatsheaf Players were without a home. This time due to the City's post war redevelopment plans. A number of venues were used for the Players. Webster Street Hall ended up being their 'Studio Theatre' with its own special atmosphere, audiences seated at small tables enjoying wine and cheese whilst being entertained with the latest production. In 1966, the Players performed 'Alice in Wonderland' on the lawns of Coombe Abbey to mark it's opening to the Public.
In November 1980, The Players moved to a new home with a theatre of their own on Watersmeet Road. The standard of productions were high and covered a wide range of shows; Shaw and Shakespeare. Johnson, Graham Green and Harold Pinter. Dickens, Willie Russell, John Godber, Melodrama, Farce, Comedy, Variety Shows and Thrillers.
In 2017, The Wheatsheaf Players parted company with the Co-operative. Members of the group fought to keep the Players alive by moving into a new venue at the Wyken Working Mens Club. Since the move and since parting company with the Co-operative, The Wheatsheaf Players truly have bounced back. With new leadership and determined members. We have performed a several successful shows, including a pantomime. We bring the best out of our members, who have written their own original plays which are performed to showcase all the talent we have within the group. With each show, both our audience and members have increased constantly which proves we can bounce back and show the best of all our members no matter what challenge we face. Another huge step for us, very recently, we have become a registered charity. In 2018, we moved to our new home at The Radford Social Club, where we now remain.
The Wheatsheaf Players strength grows from our members and the togetherness we have. If you are someone who wants to act on stage, write plays, work behind the scenes with sound, lighting or set design. No experience required, we will give you all the experience you desire. We are a friendly and ambitious group and our doors are always open for new members. Come and be part of the team!
The Wheatsheaf Players strength grows from our members and the togetherness we have. If you are someone who wants to act on stage, write plays, work behind the scenes with sound, lighting or set design. No experience required, we will give you all the experience you desire. We are a friendly and ambitious group and our doors are always open for new members.
Come and be part of the team!