A Brief History Of The Q Theatre
The great and the good of British theatre in Brentford
In the 1880s the Prince’s Hall that stood opposite Kew Bridge Station next to the Star and Garter Hotel which is now used as offices, was used as a beer garden. Later it was a swimming pool and during the First World War it was used as a roller skating rink. This was followed by a period as a dance hall and cinema.
By the early 1920s it was being used as a film studio and when the company operating there went into liquidation the lease reverted to Fuller Smith and Turner, the brewers whose beer garden had originally been on the site.
The lease was then taken over by the de Leon family who opened as the Q Theatre and for 30 years provided a venue for new plays, experience for directors, technicians and actors as well as established stars of the stage and screen.
The first plays of Sir Terence Rattigan and William Douglas Home were originally performed at Q. Peter Brook, Tony Richardson and William Gaskell directed their first plays there and film directors John Slesinger and Bryan Forbes acted there.
Sir Dirk Bogarde in one of his autobiographical books, A Postillion Struck by Lightning tells how he started his theatrical career painting scenery for the theatre after noticing interesting activities in their yard from the top of a bus. He later moved on to Assistant Stage Manager and taking bit parts before he joined the army at the beginning of the 1939-45 war.
Vivienne Leigh, Joan Collins, Sir Anthony Quayle, and Margaret Lockwood first acted on stage at Q and Sean Connery and Roger Moore gained early experience before moving on to James Bond.
The lists of Q’s performers are filled with the names of the great and the good of British theatre from the 1920s to the 1950s. In its last decade Jill Bennett, Denholm Elliott, Geraldine McEwan, Irene Worth and Patricia Routledge performed there.
The final professional production was in February 1956 and the theatre closed in March 1958. The building was demolished and Parsons office block built which was later converted in to the apartments of Rivers House.
The story of the theatre is available in a book usually available at libraries in Hounslow called On Q. Jack & Beatrice de Leon and the Q Theatre by Kenneth Barrow, published by Heritage Publications Hounslow Leisure Services.
There is also a postcard available with a line drawing of the theatre and Chiswick Library local studies hold a collection of the programmes of the majority of their weekly productions.
October 8, 2009