Watermill Theatre

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Watermill Theatre
Watermill Theatre, Bagnor.jpg
Watermill Theatre from the front
Address Bagnor, Berkshire
Coordinates 51°25′17″N 1°21′09″W / 51.421329°N 1.352540°W / 51.421329; -1.352540
Capacity 220 seats
Opened 1967

The Watermill Theatre is a professional repertory theatre with charitable status. Established in 1967, it is a converted watermill beside the River Lambourn, in the village of Bagnor, Newbury, Berkshire.


"As an actor who began his career here, the Watermill fulfils my vision of a perfect theatre" – David Suchet[1]

The ancient mill of Bagnor was converted into a theatre in the early 1960s. It retains many of its original architectural features such as the waterwheel, wooden beams and corn chutes, which protrude through the lighting arrays. Although housed in a 200-year-old building, the theatre uses state of the art technology.

The first short professional season opened in 1967. Jill Fraser was a co-owner of the theatre from 1981 until her death in 2006. Her vision has led the Watermill to build an excellent reputation worldwide. Some of the most famous actors who began their careers at the Watermill include Bill Nighy, Sean Bean and David Suchet. Notable premieres under Jill's administration were works by Vivian Ellis, award-winners George Stiles, Anthony Drewe and The Great Big Radio Show! by Philip Glassborow.

The theatre was put up for sale by the Sargant family 2008. A development board was established, chaired by Ralph Bernard, and was successful in raising funds to purchase the building and grounds. The theatre is now run by a board of trustees and is managed by artistic and executive director Hedda Beeby since 2007.

Programmes and reception[edit]

Despite its distinctly local feel, the Watermill's productions are reviewed very favourably by national newspapers as well as local, and many productions transfer to the West End. Watermill touring produces up to three tours a year, two of which seek out those British towns and villages with little or no theatre activity of their own, and one, usually a musical theatre piece or a Shakespeare, to large scale theatres across the UK. Often these large scale UK tours will also travel abroad to Europe, the US and the Far East, or transfer to the The theatre also has a thriving Outreach team with a widely diverse community and education programme, including a large youth theatre ranging from the two-year old 'Waterminis' to the Young Company at twenty plus.

The Watermill Theatre Foyer Entrance

In the last years the theatre has concentrated on revivals of musicals which feature cast members playing two or more instruments over the course of the play. This has been developed into a highly successful actor musician genre with the help of Tony Award winners John Doyle and Sarah Travis. Notable Watermill productions of this genre include Pinafore Swing, A Star Danced, Ten Cents a Dance, Sweeney Todd and Mack and Mabel, which have gone on from the Watermill to tour the UK and transfer to the West End.

As well as musicals, seasons in the late 2000s usually saw a Shakespeare play in conjunction with the Watermill based Propeller company, directed by Edward Hall, often in a reinterpreted format, and a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, again a re-arranged version which may only superficially resemble the original, sometimes even the title was altered (such as Pinafore Swing, an actor musician version of HMS Pinafore with music arranged by Sarah Travis, and the more recent Hot Mikado, a condensed actor musician version of the already existing Hot Mikado which in turn is a jazzed up version of the Gilbert and Sullivan comedy opera The Mikado). The Watermill production of Hot Mikado was directed by Craig Revel Horwood, also known for his role as a judge on 'Strictly Come Dancing'. As the Hedda Beeby era has evolved the Revel Horwood/Travis collaboration has gone from strength to strength with successful productions of Martin Guerre, Spend Spend Spend and Copacabana.

Production archive[edit]










External links[edit]