In Association With

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxPatrons: Violetta, Geoffrey Brawn

Site Last updated: January 21st 2014xxx CONTACT US: here: Players' Theatre Archive Contact

About This Website

This website covers the history of the original Players' Theatre Club from its founding in 1936 by Peter Ridgeway & Leonard Sachs right up to its last days at The Arches, Villiers Street and its final closure in 2002. Please remember there is 66 years worth of material to digitise, all of which has been in store for many years and which needs to be sorted and catalogued so there will be new material added on a regular basis. Please check above to see when the site was last updated. Grateful thanks to Keith Fawkes-Underwood who salvaged the majority of the archive just before everything was about to be cleared and destroyed and to Bill Halson of the 'new' Players' Theatre who has ensured that the remainder of the archive together with the Music Library and many other Players' artefacts remain in safe storage.

Herein you will find a wealth of original material from The Players' archives comprising full reproductions of the books and other publications written about the Players', Programmes and photographs of virtually all of the Christmas Pantomimes, details of the other Productions and Scenas that were presented at The Players' Theatre itself as well as those which transferred to other theatres - including, of course, The Boy Friend, photographs of Artistes from the earliest days onwards and last, but by no means least, The Late Joys - The Players' most famous Victorian Music Hall entertainment that started in December 1937 and became its raison d'etre. Indeed without The Joys the Players' would very likely have sunk without trace by the 1940s.

So popular are the Joys, even today, that other Players' Members Clubs were formed after the 2002 closure and they continue to put on Late Joys performances at regular intervals throughout the year. Full details of these two organisations can be found in the Links section.


WHO ARE THE COUPLE IN THE TOP PICTURE? Well, if you were a real old Players' habitué, even up to the old Villiers St. days, you would recognise them instantly as 'The Aspidistras'. They were chosen because they were the very embodiment of the gentle satire of Victorian entertainment so well known to Players' members and were one of the funniest acts to grace the Late Joys performances. They were well known performers and created this act in 1932 way before the Players' was founded and they joined the company in 1937. They continued to perform right up to the mid 1970s, thus making them almost the longest serving artistes. John Mott & Elsie French were husband and wife and before creating this act had a long and distinguished career in Opera & Musical Comedy.
If you want to see them perform just click on the image at the top.


January 21st 2014: New videos added to the Video section.
January 10th 2014:
It is with great pleasure that we can announce that both Violetta & Geoffrey Brawn have kindly consented to become Patrons of this website. Both extremely long serving members of the Players' company they each, in their own ways, contributed greatly to having made the Players' famous and respected throughout the world.
September 10th 2013: Digitising of the Ridgeway Family Archive has now been completed and the contents are now live on this website. They make fascinating reading, in particular Peter Ridgeway's original press cuttings from 1923 up to 1936 and his daughter Ann's own scrap book and it is a revelation as to the amount of prestigious productions that Peter Ridgeway had been in and had directed long before he founded The Players'. But there is much more than mentioned here.This is a real 'Aladdin's Cave' of rare material for Theatre Historians. Quick Link HERE. Once again grateful thanks to Kevin Murphy (grandson) and the Ridgeway family for sharing their archive world wide.
July 1st 2013:
The Players' Archive has been lent the entire contents of the archive of the Ridgeway Family. It consists of a wealth of press cuttings, photos and other ephemera relating to the very earliest days (and the history) of Peter Ridgeway prior to him starting The Players' in 1936 as well as later material. There is is also some interesting material on Leonard Sachs with whom the faimily remained close friends. All of this is currently being digitised and will eventually appear on the website both as an entirely separate section and, where appropriate, included in other sections of this website. We are most grateful to Kevin Murphy (Peter Ridgeway's grandson) for the loan of this family material.
June 14th 2013:
More photos from Late Joys bills being uploaded daily. This will be a continuous operation now until posted as complete.
June 6th 2013:
John Rutland, one of the longest serving, and certainly the most loved of all the Players' artistes died on Saturday 1st June 2013 at the age of 97. He started with the Players' in 1953 with 'The Boy Friend' and continued working regularly in many Pantomimes and The Late Joys Music Hall and was still making appearances after his 90th birthday. He will be sadly missed not only by the Players' members but also his many friends and theatre colleagues.

June 4th 2013: More complete Late Joys Bill photos being added over the next week. Quick link HERE.
April 29th 2013:
Lots of big and little holes filled in in Pantomimes and Productions. Bigger holes now filled in include all of the production photos for 'Twenty Minutes South' and the 1943 Cinderella.
April 23rd 2013:
'Artistes' section is complete in as much as all the 'old' part of the archive is completely transferred but there still remains the more recent (mainly colour) material to be digitised. 'Pianists', 'Chairmen' & 'Directors' sections are also now live but the same applies. There is much to add to these sections of the more recent pianists and chairmen but there are some big gaps still to fill. Nearly all the digitisation that remains is from the 1990s. Photographing The Joys on a regular basis was not started until just before the move from The Duchess to The Arches in 1990 at which point production photos were displayed outside the theatre.
April 19th 2013:
section is now up to 'K'
April 17th 2013:
section is now live but currently incomplete. With a few exceptions we are only up to 'G' and there is much still to add.
April 15th 2013:
Currently working on scanning photos of Artistes A-Z. Today got only as far as the beginning of 'C' so this will take some time. Results so far will be uploaded tomorrow some time.
April 9th 2013:
It's Panto Time. Over 50 colour photos of the 1995 'Sleeping Beauty in the Wood' have been uploaded to this website. This was Geoffrey Brawn's first pantomime as director and it proved to be a great success. It was also the last panto designed by Disley Jones.
April 8th 2013:
Many pantomimes updated including complete missing photos from 1945 Cinderella. Quite a lot of other pantos now with photos of Hattie.
April 6th 2013:
A lot of new entries in the vintage Scenas and Late Joys Numbers today. More to follow. A few nice ones of Hattie have surfaced.
March 30th 2013:
New section: 'Complete Late Joys Bills'. This comprises photos of each number or scena presented in Late Joys Bills from 1989 onwards (i.e. from just before the move to the newly built theatre 'Under the Arches'). This will end up being a very large section and will be added to on a daily basis. So if you are looking for images of current or more recent artistes this is the place to look. This section is within the main 'Late Joys Music Hall' section (Quick Link HERE) and is fully searchable.


CONTACT US: You can email us here: Players' Theatre Archive Contact Please report any factual or website errors to us. All comments welcomed in the Guest Book; nice ones preferrably.



All our sections will display as new tabs on your browser

SEARCHING - You can search for names etc. within each section but not from one to the other. (No searching in Books & Video sections though)

HANDY HINT: To make the images appear larger to view you can use the
F11 Function Key to toggle in and out of Full-Screen mode.

Books & Magazines
About The Players'
1939 - 2001
Players' Productions

Late Joys Music Hall
Special Occasions


Theatre Premises

The Ridgeway Family Archive

Links to Other Websites



Website & Contents Copyright © 2013

All Photographic Copyrights

.Roger Fillary & The Players' Theatre Archive

. Acknowledged

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