Our History

Arena Theatre was established in 1983 by John King, and Ian and Hayley Knight. Based in the Bournemouth Centre for Community Arts (BCCA) in Boscombe, we rapidly outgrew our home and moved to the 450-seat Regent Centre Theatre in Christchurch, where we’ve had a continuous presence for more than 15 years, covering every genre from kids’ shows and musicals to comedy, drama and Shakespeare.

Arena have achieved dozens of awards for acting, direction, lighting, sound and effects since we began, and have also twice undertaken international exchange tours to Colorado, USA, performing ‘Teechers’, ‘Amadeus’ and ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’, in addition to one of our own celebrated Murder Mysteries.

In 2008 we decided to branch out into working with other, more intimate venues, in order to produce work of a more challenging nature. Starting with the Regent’s own 70-seat Studio Theatre, over the next year we performed ‘Popcorn’ (Ben Elton), ‘Rhinoceros’ (Eugene Ionesco), ‘Art’ (Yazmina Reza) and ‘Ladies’ Day’ (Amanda Whittington) to great acclaim and packed houses, before launching a major South Coast tour of John Godber’s ‘Bouncers’, and performing ‘Metamorphosis’ (Steven Berkoff), ‘Closer’ (Patrick Marber) and ‘Laundry & Bourbon / Lone Star’ (James McLure) at various venues, both large and small around Dorset.

We still haven’t forgotten our roots though, and perform at the Regent Centre every year; ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ (Christopher Hampton), ‘Blood Brothers’ (Willy Russell) in 2010, and ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ (Dennis Potter) in 2011 with more exciting ventures and productions planned for the future.

John King 1944 – 2011

Our entire 2011 season was dedicated to the memory of our co- founder, John King, who passed away suddenly in early 2011.

A much-loved and respected actor, musician, writer and director, John founded Arena Theatre in 1983, since when, under his leadership, the group has gone from strength to strength.

From the outset, it was John’s intention that Arena should not be pigeonholed by any one style, author or genre, and we have produced comedy, drama, cabaret, children’s’ shows, murder mysteries and musical theatre, all to critical acclaim.

Winner of numerous awards as both actor and director, John was also the inaugural recipient of the Daily Echo Curtain Call David Palmer Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Theatre. John was a passionate supporterof drama for young people and worked with both Big Little Theatre School and the Mainstage School of Performing Arts, teaching drama and helping to develop their pupils and prepare them for their future careers as professional performers. Indeed, John was preparing to direct ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ for Avonbourne School when he sadly passed.

John also created the Regent Centre-based Regent Rep theatre company, and Arena is proud that so many of our members have been chosen by them to represent the best of local theatre talent. Regent Rep have recently been selected as one of the 8 finalists in the nationwide Sky Arts ‘Stagestruck’ programme, to find the best local amateur dramatic society in the country, something John would have been immensely proud of.

Arena continues to strive to perform acclaimed productions at the very highest level of our ability, and to honour his original vision for the group by pushing boundaries (and ourselves) in order to reach new heights. He will be much missed.

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