History Of The Society
Canterbury Children’s Theatre was established in 1952 by Neta Neale MBE who believed that theatre for young people should be entertaining, educational and encourage audience participation. Also the performers were to be adult and the standard of costumes, props and sets at a professional standard. She developed this idea with a group of enthusiastic friends and their first show of “Tinder Box” played to excellent reviews and made a profit of £5.
When the Malthouse was purchased in 1965, Neta and fellow thespians spent many hours cleaning and renovating the building to create rehearsal and performance space and officially opened in 1969. Classes for drama and creative movement were introduced and Neta continued her private lessons, tutoring many television presenters, radio announcers and stage personalities.
Initially all shows produced by Canterbury Children’s Theatre were located off site, predominantly at the Repertory Theatre in Kilmore Street. This enabled the production of large shows with full orchestra and extensive cast and crew.
In 1976, Neta Neale was awarded a M.B.E in recognition of her work for children through Canterbury Children’s Theatre.
Through Neta’s tenacity, CCT secured the rights for “Mary Poppins” in 1978 becoming the first theatre group in the world to present the show. This was presented at the James Hay Theatre in Kilmore Street.
In 1989, the concept of Cushion Theatre was developed. This was the opportunity for CCT to produce a show on-site at the Malthouse with a smaller team of people and resources. This was the beginning of an important chapter in CCT’s history which has grown in strength ever since. With Cushion Theatre, the society is able to offer the younger generation an opportunity to experience live theatre in a more inclusive environment.
It also encourages new talent in the community with the opportunity to write, direct or act in a supportive and creative space. All members are voluntary and the society is a registered non-profit charity.
Canterbury Children’s Theatre has been an integral part of Christchurch history for decades and both the society and the building hold a special significance in the heart of the city.