About The Theatre
The atmosphere in this place, you can't beat! Stay kind to it and treasure it all you can ... "Bruce Forsyth
Although bands had performed during the summer on the site where Babbacombe Theatre now stands, it wasn't until 1920 that a small bandstand was built. This was followed in 1935 by a larger structure with a canvas awning and although an improvement on the alfresco concerts the inevitable wind and rain did its worst, so in 1938 the BABBACOMBE DOWNS CONCERT HALL was built and it remained virtually unchanged for almost 50 years, until the present management took over in 1986 when improvements started to be made to enable more lavish productions to be staged.
The Concert Hall was officially opened in brilliant sunshine by the Mayor (Councillor C.G. Price), attended by members of the Torquay Corporation Entertainments Committee & St. Marychurch & Babbacombe representatives of the Town council. The ratepayers of Torquay, at a cost of £8,000, funded the building project.
The very first concert here was on the afternoon of 27th May 1939 with the Earnest Gross Municipal Orchestra and BBC Baritone John Steabben, followed that evening by the opening night of the first summer show, Cabaret Revels with tickets at 3/-, 2/- and 6d. The first Sunday concert on 4th June was broadcast live on the radio with Redvers Llewellyn.
With the advent of World War II it was not long before entertainment had to give way to more important uses and the auditorium became a lecture hall for the air crew trainees of the RAF, although during this period there were various shows including those by ENSA and the RAF Flying Training Command Band. This wartime use was commemorated with a plaque presented by the local RAF Association, now on display in the theatre foyer.
Since the war the theatre had seen many years of successful summer shows and it has the reputation of hosting household names on the threshold of their careers, including in 1955/56 Bruce Forsyth, who headlined in the Hedley Claxton's 'Gaytime'. Other well known names include David Nixon, Ted Rogers, Ray Allen, Norman Vaughan and Roy Hudd.
From its heyday in the 1970's, successive failures in the early 1980's led to the council deciding to close the theatre, however Colin Matthews, who had been operating the theatre since 1986 took on a new lease in 1990. Since then he has turned the venue into one of the most successful theatres of its size in the country
Refurbished in 2006 the BABBACOMBE THEATRE, has been a valuable asset to the town for over eighty years. Renowned for wowing audiences with their highly acclaimed shows, most especially since 1986 when Matpro Limited took over the venue, you can feel confident that a night at the Babbacombe Theatre will deliver on the ENTERTAINMENT factor!
The ENTERTAINMENT factor is paramount to the successes of the productions at Babbacombe Theatre, as is the artistic and creative flair of the show’s producer and director, Colin Matthews. Colin has produced all the shows at the venue since 1986.
But with the closures of all entertainment venues in 2020, only 5 weeks into the season, suddenly the future of the theatre was in jeopardy! Personal loans, donations and eventually some Arts Council Funding were all that saved the venue from closure
It was because of the monies raised we were able to re-open in May 2021 after 14 months of closure. With this year being Colin’s 35th anniversary at the theatre, it seemed bittersweet when we could actually open again but with many restrictions in place!
Colin reflects and remembers that since he saved the theatre from closure back in 1986, there have been many highs and lows over the years, he states, “the irony is that 2020 and early 2021 is a repeat of my first year in 1986, in so much as, that was also a financial disaster. Hopefully though, with the support of the local community, businesses and coaching hotels who have always supported us in the past, will enable us to thrive as we keep on doing what we all enjoy doing best, ENTERTAINING you”.
During 2021 as well as SuperStars & I Love Music, we enjoyed appearances from iconic performers, including, Jim Davidson, David Baddiel, Tim Vine, Merrill Osmond & several casts’ members from the All Star Drag TV show, to name just a few! As we now approach the yuletide season though we are thrilled to have a FABULOUS festive family show, with Step into Christmas for you. It is already attracting stunning 5 STAR reviews!
Regular headliners and Babbacombe favourites make a welcome return for this Christmas show, including comedian Andy Oakley who is joined by special guest, ITV’s comedy impressionist Phil Lowen and ex Buck’s Fizz music maker Paul Fordham. Their wealth of experience and versatility is undoubtedly what makes them so popular with the venue’s audiences, just as we anticipate new and merging talent will do too, with local musical and pantomime stars, Harriet Loveridge and Claire Waring who is making her debut on the Babbacombe boards. ‘Danze Fantastique’ compliments and adorns the stage with their wonderfully paced dance routines, choreographed by Lucy O’Neill with musical arrangements created by Musical Director, Pete Leonard.
The venue with its extended season running from February to October, as well as the visiting shows providing early and late dates and the regular Christmas Show the venue has productions running virtually throughout the year. 2022 even sees us opening in January when we will have the wonderful talent that is Jason Manford in his new show, ‘Like Me’ on Friday 28th!!
New shows are constantly added to the programme as a season progresses, to keep abreast of all the shows appearing at this celebrated venue, refer to the SHOWS tab (www.babbacombe-theatre.com)
The Box Office hours vary during the season, however when closed calls divert to the administration office.
Box Office: 01803 328385
Email: [email protected]
The theatre provides:
- Access for the disabled with a disabled toilet
- Wheelchair spaces
- Loop system
- Sundries, confectionery, and soft drinks
Enjoy a pre-show meal or drink in the interval or after the show at the Babbacombe Inn, literally across the road and only a 30 second walk. It is advisable to book prior to your visit to the theatre and if you redeem your voucher on your ticket holder against your pre-show meal for two, you can get 2 sizzling steaks for only £15 (subject to terms and conditions) to contact the Babbacombe Inn call on 01803 316200.
Additionally, you can get a wonderful meal with exemplary service at Hamilton’s, set directly across the road too. a visit to either one of these fine establishments will surely make your theatre experience more memorable!
BABBACOMBE ALSO HAS MANY OTHER FINE PUBS AND RESTAURANTS THAT OFFER GREAT FOOD WITH A SOCIABLE ENVIRONMENT TO ENJOY A RELAXING DRINK. WE CAN HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING, SOME WILL ALSO TAKE ORDERS FOR INTERVAL DRINKS, why not ask your preferred establishment if they can accommodate your drinks order: -
The Babbacombe Royal Hotel & Carvery, The Downs Hotel, Babbacombe Bay Café, Hanbury's Fish Restaurant renowned for their award-Winning fish & Chips, The Babbacombe Hotel, The Cary Arms, Angels, The Buccaneer, the Cliff Railway Café, Three Degrees West Bar & Bistro on Oddicombe Beach and finally, but by no means least the Divers Arms.