We are a company of actors that come together annually to perform Open Air Shakespeare.
Our actors are also members of the many local dramatic groups scattered across London.
Established in 1958, we continue to bring the experience of open-air Shakespeare to the heart of east London.
This is the story of the Greek Theatre Players...
(With thanks to Louise Hodges, Bob Hutt, Rick Savery, Helen Greenall, Mark Greenall, and the friends of the Greek Theatre for their contributions below.)
The founding of the Greek Theatre Players
Annette Park was the kind of woman who happily sat on a bus wearing two hats, one perched on the other, without realising it. Her friends would barely blink: that was simply Annette. She was in the line of great English eccentrics who pour so much energy and enthusiasm into some area of their life that there seems no room left for the more mundane. She might have appeared scatter-brained, but her formidable brain was not scattered, just busy elsewhere. Mary Norris, former headmistress of Walthamstow School for Girls’, once said that she was “in the world, but not of the world.”
Over the years, the Greek Theatre was used for an assortment of purposes - school prize-giving, the ceremony to celebrate Walthamstow’s incorporation as a borough, even a dog show to raise money for the war effort. However, its prime use was always for the school play.
Annette Park arrived as an English teacher in the 1920s and took charge of school drama. There are many testimonies to the inspirational nature of her teaching, but her deepest passion was the theatre. When a play was in the offing, she was consumed, pedalling furiously round the borough on a rickety old bicycle, collecting props and living off Metatone tonic.
If Mary Norris created the theatre, Annette Park created the venue.
It was Annette Park who had the idea of installing outdoor lighting so the theatre could be used in the dark. The first floodlit production was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1934, which played to 600 people on a warm September evening.
The school’s Old Girls Drama Society was founded in 1935, with Annette Park at the helm. Scavenging for props for one production, she asked Mary Norris if there was anything that might serve as a lawn. Suspecting what was afoot, Mary Norris answered no, quite firmly, but was hardly surprised to arrive for work the next day and find the luxurious green carpet in her office had been rolled up and carted off.
After the way, the Old Girls’ productions widened to include old boys of the Monoux School. This meant plays could now be cast without women dressing as men, unless Shakespeare specifically called for it. However, membership was dwindling by the time Annette Park retired from the school in 1957, though she herself was still full of zest. From the core of the Old Girls society and the Monoux old boys, she founded The Greek Theatre Players.
The first production of the new society was ‘King Lear’ in 1958. To fully cast it and to strengthen the production, other actors from the borough were brought in. The tradition of The Greek Theatre Players as a loose-knit assembly that coalesced each year to present a play at the Greek Theatre was established. Subsequently, the tradition became that it was always a Shakespeare play.
Annette Park died peacefully in 1977, aged 81. Fittingly, she spent her last day coaching an actor for his role in ‘Becket’.
A silver birch was planted at the theatre in her memory.