Situated in the heart of the Estrela district, the Lisbon Players’ Theatre is a welcoming but little known theatre space which has been providing a varied repertoire of plays in English to Lisbon audiences for over sixty years.
Rua da Estrela nº 10
The Lisbon Players - A Well Kept Secret. The Estrela Hall was built in 1906 and converted into a theatre with the establishment of The Lisbon Players in 1947. It was originally connected to the group of British organizations that occupy the site which adjoins the British church and cemetery. Estrela Hall is still remembered by some older Lisboetas as the venue for the showing of anti-Nazi propaganda films during the war, when the building was commandeered by the British Embassy. It was also used by the prestigious Companhia Amélia Rey Colaço/Robles Monteiro when it was homeless, and before it took up permanent residence in the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II.
The theatre consists of a 120-seat auditorium with seating on stalls and balcony levels and a wide raked proscenium stage. Backstage there are dressing rooms and storage areas and there is also a large bar and foyer area. The lighting box is at the back of the auditorium at balcony level.
In its long and varied existence it has had several exciting moments: in 1967, as the first Lisbon theatre to put on Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, it had a visit from a couple of PIDE agents who, after watching part of a dress rehearsal in total incomprehension, decided that as it was in an idioma estrangeiro it couldn’t constitute much of a threat to the regime and let the performance go ahead!
In its early years the group had a distinctly British flavour, in terms of the performers and the audience; expatriates entertaining expatriates. However, demographic and social changes over the past twenty years or so have meant that the company has had to reinvent itself in many ways, though it retains its original brief of performing in the English language. Its audience has become far more international, and Portuguese now make up the majority, as well as a size-able proportion of performers and back-stage staff. Several prominent Portuguese theatre practitioners have cut their teeth on the boards of Estrela Hall, and it is recognized both as a good training ground for people who want to go on to make a career in the performing arts and as a valuable educational resource for schools and universities.
As far as the repertoire goes, the group aims at a mix of classics, modern plays and the occasional musical show. Amongst playwrights performed over the past ten years are Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Chekhov, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Oliver Goldsmith, Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, Sophocles, David Mamet and David Edgar. It has also been responsible for some important Portuguese premières including the original 1728 version of John Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, the radical musical about the First World War ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ and the first English language production of Fernando Pessoa’s ‘The Mariner’.The2006/ 07 season had three anniversaries , 60 years since the founding of The Lisbon Players, 100 years since the building of the Estrela Hall and 300 years since the birth of the playwright Henry Fielding who is buried in the British Cemetery at the side of the theatre. As part of the official Lisbon Fielding Festival the musical ´Lock Up your Daughters´, based on one of his plays, was presented as part of the season.
The company is amateur – no-one is paid for their work – and the Lisbon Players, contrary to popular belief, operates with no subsidy or financial support of any kind. Its only revenue is from ticket sales. The upkeep of the building is expensive and, as anyone who knows the theatre will testify, it is in desperate need of renovation, both backstage and front-of-house.
The Lisbon Players plans to continue its important work of entertaining, educating and involving new participants and new theatre audiences of all nationalities and ages.
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BREAKING NEWS: Eviction process for The Lisbon Players to leave Estrela Hall
(posted on: 2016-06-15)
News of Estrela Hall
(posted on: 2016-02-24)
Lisbon Players 2015 / 2016 Season
(posted on: 2015-07-22)
Lisbon Players Proposals for 2015 - 2016 season
(posted on: 2015-05-05)
Proposals for the 2014 - 2015 Season
(posted on: 2014-05-12)