Abergavenny has been home to theatre since the early 19th century and boasts the grand, town centre Borough Theatre with its 350 seats, and the Melville Theatre with youth theatre, our ‘jewel in the crown’.
There has been excellent youth theatre on the Melville site since 1971 – for fifty years next year. The black box studio theatre was built in 1978 by public subscription.
It’s named after Melville Thomas who founded Gwent Young People’s Theatre (GYPT) in Pontypool in 1956. It was agreed GYPT should take over our Abergavenny’s former Grammar School site when the last of its pupils transferred up to the new King Henry Comprehensive School on Old Hereford Road.
With 75 seats, the theatre still provides just the right sort of setting for young people taking their first steps in stage craft.
Our youth company today, Rareseed, derives much from those early days.
Its Artistic Directors, John Clarke and Liz Pearce were both tutors in the Gwent Theatre in Education professional team which managed GYPT, and several of Rareseed’s volunteer tutors were young members of GYPT not so long ago.
We now have four theatre companies regularly performing at the Melville:
Rareseed Theatre Company
Suitcase Theatre Company
The Play Group
Louby Lou Storytelling
and also, the Blodeuo Project,
our diverse ability drama group, sponsored by the Arts Council of Wales.
Many events take place in our theatre every year in addition to these theatre companies’ rehearsals and productions:
- Abergavenny Film Society screenings,
- Black Mountain Jazz Sunday night gigs and their Wall2Wall Festival in October,
- Gigs – with great local bands,
- talks, poetry readings, book launches and lunches
- weekly events such as Abergavenny’s ukulele group
- filming sessions,
- professional presentations/ workshops
- Noson Allan performances (touring companies’ shows for adults or children, part funded through the Arts Council of Wales),
- Abergavenny Arts Festival events: films, talks and installations,
- Third Sector events,
- Christmas shows, and many more….