“ Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD1 1JZ. „
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The Watford Palace Theatre is now the only professional producing theatre in Hertfordshire, and one that is rarely beaten for the quality of of its productions. Now heading for it's 92nd Birthday, it's still going reasonably strong despite a lack of strong funding. The WPT is a rareity in theatre world, it is one of the countries only original Hemp Houses (i.e. In order to fly a large piece of scenery in during a play, there is one man holding on to the other end of a piece of rope), most newer theatres now do this with the push of a button. The sets and costume produced for it's shows are of first class standard, and many of the plays begin life at Watford before going on tour or in to the West End. It produces Eight Plays a year, each lasting 3 Weeks, plus a professional pantomime which runs for 6 weeks over Christmas. It is one of the best traditional family pantos I have ever seen - there are no bad sporting celebs, or models who'd like to think they can act. It is always full of very talented actors and singers, most of whom have years of experience in this field. Roy Hudd has written the Panto for the last Ten Years. The rest of the productions tend to be straight drama or comedy. So far they have had Alan Bennetts' Talking Heads, Cor Blimey! The story of Sid James, Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams, a Tom Stoppard, and a Noel Coward. It all seems a bit safe maybe, but a lot of the shows are not done often and Watford gives you the chance to see some quality classic theatre. They do encourage new writing, I know there's one in January 2001 and more planned for the new year. Although not famed for having "Celebreties", over the past three years the profile of the Palace Theatre has increased and it's now becoming a theatre where people want to work. Last season saw Harold Pinter turn down a job in the West End to come to Watfrd to direct. FOr someone of his calibre to
come to little ole Watford, things must be looking up. The actors too are beginning to want to work there. A lot of them may not be instantly recognisable to many of us, but they are well respected actors within TV or Theatre, and they want to come to Watford. The theatre also houses the occasional touring production, and has a few Sunday Night only performances. This includes variety (Roy Hudd, Barry Took etc) Dance, Stand Up Comedy, Music (from Jewish Kletzma through to Songs from Shows). It probably holds something to cater for everyone. I know that Cinema is really the thing of today - but theatre can be so much more exciting. Not every play you see be a great one, or move you, or make you think, or bring up discussion points, or anything, for every three bad one's there is one superb one that will do all of these of things. And that's all it takes. If you want to go to the theatre, you could do a lot worse than seeing a show at the Palace. Even if you don't like the play. You are pretty much guaranteed a professional, high-quality production. Worth every penny you spend. Tickets go from £5.00 to abround £17.00. It takes 20 minutes from Euston to Watford Junction and then there's a maximum 10 minute walk or three minute cab ride to the theatre. It is planning to close in 2002 for re-furbishment, but they need to raise 1.5 million themselves in order to get any funding from the government and Lottery commission. There are now so few theatres left in the country who still produce their own work that it would be a shame to see "The best theatre outside of London"(Evening Standard) close down. Theatre is something I have a great deal of passion for, and whether you go to see a Panto, a serious drama, a comedy, a musical, a shakespeare, a classic, a greek tragedy - it is an experience you will not forget. Come and take a look at Watfords.