Knebworth Amateur Theatrical  Society (KATS)

 

   

History
       

Situated in the heart of Knebworth KATS has always been unafraid of theatrical challenge - tackling Ibsen, Pratchett, Frayn, Coward as well as new and local playwrights - and - more recently - the fun and games of theatre in the round!

KATS' first life began in 1946. St. Martin Players, the brainchild of Elsie Martin (left) was formed to raise money for St. Martin's Church Hall Fund. The very first production, A Variety Concert, was performed over two evenings in the Village Hall. In 1954 the Players were at last able to present their first play in St. Martin's Hall, namely The Passing of the Third Floor Back by Jerome K. Jerome. They continued to perform in this "temporary" structure for 36 years.

The group has enjoyed fluctuating fortunes. Browse through our scrapbooks and you’ll read that so popular was Past Horn Gallop by Derek Benfield (May, 1966) that its successor, Love's A Luxury, enjoyed an extended four night run. The Players continued to pack them in; in 1967 Laughter In the Dark raised the munificent sum of £15 to be handed over to the Treasurer of the St. Martin's Hall Committee.

However, the heady days of the 1960s were not to last. By December 1973 competition from "the box" was taking its toll; the thriller The Crooked Road played to "a small but appreciative audience". December 1974's production of Your Obedient Servant was advertised by a flier which urged its readers "Television's okay, but how about some live entertainment for a change?" The last three plays had all lost money, forcing the Players to increase their ticket price to 30p, though the price of 20p was held for children and old age pensioners! Indeed, the group folded briefly for a year (1977), but rose, phoenix-like, from its ashes, with the influx into the Knebworth population resulting from the building of the first Wimpey estate. Amongst the bright new stars were young Colin Macleod and Chris Simson.

 

In 1990 St. Martin's Hall, now long past its sell-by date, was pulled down. The new St. Martin's Parish Centre had no stage and so the group was faced with the prospect of’ closure, or finding a new home. Thanks to the drive and enthusiasm of the then Chair, Margaret Blundell, the group established itself in Lytton Hall in Knebworth Park, an Edwardian building originally designed to house the Raj collection of the Earl of Lytton. New home, new name - Knebworth Amateur Theatrical Society - new logo, new outlook. In 1992 we performed our first Shakespeare for the Knebworth Festival, this being A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Rose Garden at Knebworth House. In 1996, again at the kind invitation of Lord and Lady Cobbold, KATS staged Twelfth Night in the House's Jacobean Banqueting Hall. Supper and show evenings were first added to the repertoire in the 1990s and proved a highly successful cocktail. In 1994 Lytton Hall was temporarily transformed into an 18th century low-life den for John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, giving musically-gifted members a chance to show the range of their talents.

Plans to redevelop Lytton Hall left us once again looking for a new home, In our beginnings we found our current end. The wheel turned full circle when we came back to Knebworth Village Hall with a grand opening production of As You Like It in 2001 and the Village Hall has been our home ever since. In 2006 a production entitled 60 Dramatic Years was staged to mark the 60th anniversary of the formation of KATS. The cast are featured in the photo on the right.

 
 
 
 

 

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