Our History

Whitley Bay Playhouse
Marine Avenue
Whitley Bay
NE26 1LZ

0191 252 3505

0191 251 4949

[email protected]


What is now known as the Playhouse was first named The Kursaal and opened on March 24th 1913. The building consisted of a barrel vaulted auditorium, flanked on all four corners by French Renaissance towers which produced a striking and imposing effect.

The theatre had a successful life throughout the Twenties and Thirties. Films first began to be shown in the Twenties, but as they became more frequent it was apparent that the theatre was not very well suited to function as a cinema.

In 1931 the building was reconstructed to provide new and improved facilities for the patrons and was renamed The Playhouse. The stage was moved to the opposite end of the building and the interior reconstructed to a new and striking Art Deco design. Throughout the early Thirties live professional and amateur shows continued to dominate the scene until just before WWII when films became paramount for many families and courting couples. Gradually films took over as the main entertainment and the name was changed to the Essoldo in early 1950.

A survey in 1974 showed that there was a large potential demand for a theatre to hire among local groups in addition to those who regularly hired the Priory, a local amateur theatre which had to be closed due to fire risk. A group of North Tyneside counsellors and officers representing the arts, education and recreation services worked on a project to allow local groups to hire the Essoldo in replacement of their Priory building.

It was agreed that the cinema amenity in the centre of the town had to be preserved and that the building should not only become a civic home for the performing arts in North Tyneside but also aim to attract to the area trade and professional conferences, together with the business they would bring.

After being purchased by the Council and passed into public ownership an independent trust was formed in 1976 with the objective of promoting and encouraging the arts and recreation in the area. The name was then changed back to The Playhouse.

In 1991 the Trust reviewed its programming policy and decided to reestablish the Playhouse as a major venue for middle scale touring theatre and dance balanced with the continued important use of the theatre by the users from the local area and its function as a large screen cinema showing major second run and specialist films.

Refurbishment was carried out in 1993 with a grant of £72,000 from the Foundation for Sports and the Arts. The Whitley Bay Playhouse is the only theatre of its size within a forty mile radius and the only theatre on the coast between Sunderland and Berwick, a distance of 70 miles.

The Mayor of North Tyneside has recently pledged £5.5 million to the theatre which will enable redevelopment plans to go ahead for the foyer and auditorium areas of the theatre.


The Whitley Bay Playhouse is a not for profit, receiving theatre company and a registered charity.

The main objective of the Playhouse is to present a quality mixed programme of professional and amateur productions to serve the people from North Tyneside and other parts of the Northern Region and to actively take theatre into the local community with the Theatre in the Community programme utilising sites in North Shields, Wallsend, Killingworth, Forest Hall and Percy Main making theatre more accessible to all sectors of the community.