|Activity||The Open Air Theatre [OAT], Regent's Park (London), was founded in 1932 by Sydney Carroll and Robert Atkins, formalising a tradition of outdoor performances begun earlier in the Century in what were then the Royal Botanical Gardens. Permission was granted by the Ministry of Works, to take to the Park four matinee performances of Atkins' production of 'Twelfth Night', which had been running at the New Theatre [formerly the Albery]. Carroll gave financial backing for the construction of a permanent theatre facility in the Park, comprising an 80-foot-wide grass stage with a semi-circle of deckchair seating. The first full season of the OAT opened in June 1933 to an audience of 3-4,000 people for a revival of 'Twelfth Night'. Atkins founded a company called the Bankside Players, which performed under his direction at the OAT until 1960. He took over from Carroll as Producer in 1939. Despite many successful appearances by star performers such as Anna Neagle in 1934 and Vivien Leigh in 1936, by the 1950s the OAT was experiencing financial difficulties. It was forced to close in 1954, 1957 and 1961, at which time the Department of the Environment [formerly Ministry of Works] considered revoking the Theatre's licence. |
In February 1962, David Conville Productions Ltd. signed a contract for a three-month summer season at the OAT, with David Conville as Managing Director and David William as Artistic Director. They subsequently raised £4,000, redesigned the stage area and in 1963 created a new non-profit company, the New Shakespeare Company. The New Shakespeare Company retain the lease on the OAT to the present day.