Harlequin Puppet Theatre

link_to_french_translationThe Harlequin Puppet Theatre, Cayley Promenade, Rhos-on-Sea

This is the first permanent puppet theatre to be built in Britain. It was designed by the lophoto_of_harlequin_puppetscal architect G Parry Davies and built by contractor T Alun Hughes Ltd. It was the brainchild of Eric Bramall, a pioneer of the British puppetry renaissance, and built with the co-operation of Millicent Ford, of the adjoining private house called Aberhod.

The theatre was opened on the 7 July 1958 by Sir Clayton Russon OBE, President of theFestival of Wales. The building achieved a Civic Trust Award in 1959, the chairman of the judging panel being Sir Clough Williams-Ellis CBE, the architect best-known for Portmeirion village, near Porthmadog.

The theatre was built on the site of three derelict cottages and the flanking walls of the auditorium incorporate the original stone from these buildings. The contemporary design of the foyer and exterior was intended to contrast vividly with the “make believe” world of puppetry, expressed in the theatrical Renaissance interior of the auditorium. The Harlequin Puppet Theatre remains privately owned and runs without grants or subsidy.

Eric Bramall was educated at Wallasey and Holywell Grammar Schools. From 1946 the Eric Bramall Marionettes toured music and art societies. He appeared on the variety theatre circuits, including on Colwyn Bay and Llandudno piers, and presented shows on the bandstand of Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay. He moved from Wallasey to Penrhyn Bay in 1954. In 1963 he conceived and directed Britain's first International Puppet Festival, held in Colwyn Bay. For over 30 years he, and partner Chris Somerville, presented puppet shows for BBC Wales. Many of the television puppets are exhibited in Penrhyn Castle (National Trust). Eric died in 1996.

With thanks to Graham Roberts, of Colwyn Bay Civic Society, and Chris Somerville

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Postcode: LL28 4EP

Website of Harlequin Puppet Theatre

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