It was 50 years ago that the curtain fell at the Chiswick Empire for the last time. So ended the golden age of theatre and cinema in Chiswick. Stars such as Laurel and Hardy, Vera Lynn, George Formby, Terry Thomas and Liberace all performed at the Empire when it was one of the most prominent theatres in London.
Chiswick has always had an incredibly strong arts heritage. Not only have a raft of famous actors chosen Chiswick as their home – Colin Firth, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Briers, Ant and Dec – but also the playwrights who have lived there include some of the greatest names in British theatre – John Osbourne, Harold Pinter, Sir Arthur Pinero and Patrick Hamilton amongst others.
Osbourne wrote Look Back in Anger while living in a houseboat in Chiswick, and Pinter used to live in a first floor flat in Chiswick where his landlord also invited a tramp to come and stay – hence the plot of The Caretaker!
Since 1959, when the Empire closed its doors, the only theatre Chiswick has had, has been The Tabard Theatre, which has been a successful and popular local venue running since 1985. Over the years there have been many highlights – in-house productions such as The Famous Five, Stig of the Dump, Ruddigore and Tryst. There have been productions that have gone on to have successful runs elsewhere such as Liza Liza Liza and Wolfboy.
To celebrate the area’s illustrious theatrical heritage, in 2019 the theatre was renamed the Chiswick Playhouse.
The Chiswick Playhouse is a small space with big ambitions. The theatre produces its own in-house productions and works with other producers to bring West End quality shows to West London, and at a fraction of the ticket price!