On 17th September 1929, a new theatre group was formed, consisting of 17 members keen to pursue their dramatic interests. They titled themselves, somewhat clumsily, the Ealing Junior Arts Club (dramatic section). Naturally the Ealing Arts Club objected and a new name had to be quickly found. So in a Soho restaurant one Sunday in November 1929, Alec Payne (the group's first director) came up with a new name "The Questors". It seems that this was accepted mainly because nobody had thought of any better alternatives by the time they had reached the coffee.
The first Questors production of The Best People
was performed at the Park Theatre in Hanwell. The group's precarious finances led to a move to the smaller venue of St Martin's Hall in Acton. It was while they were searching for a more permanent base that they were put in touch with a local scout group who were operating out of a small-prefabricated "tin church" at Number 12, Mattock Lane.
The Reverend Richard O'Halloran founded the church in 1896. He continued to give services to a dwindling congregation after he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1914 for disobeying the will of his diocese. After his death in 1925 O'Halloran willed the property to Miss Ann Webb, who nursed him in his last years.
The first Questors performance at Mattock Lane, a new play called Dragon's Teeth
, opened on 6th December 1933. The Questors continued to build both its member base and its artistic reputation. After the scouts moved out, The Questors continued as sole tenants and eventually raised enough funds to purchase the site in 1952. The group's dream to build a new theatre was now a possibility and fundraising began in earnest. The drive was spearheaded by Honorary Director and founding member Alfred Emmet. Norman Branson designed the theatre and after a decade of fundraising and building efforts the new theatre complex was opened on the 18th April 1964.
In 1943 The Questors' artistic direction was summed up in a statement of aims (known as "The Quest"), which has remained, with minor amendments, our guiding principle to the present day. The aims are:
- To be an amateur theatre
- To be an independent theatre
- To be a theatre devoted to the highest possible standards
- To be an outward looking theatre
- To be a theatre of adventure.
Over our 80-year history we have: bought our own site; raised funds for and built the buildings you see today; and produced over 1,300 productions. We have launched the careers of directors, actors, playwrights and designers. Our activities have been covered on television, radio, and in books, magazines and academic journals. We have arranged international theatre exchanges, new plays festivals, and community theatre projects, and we have one of the largest youth theatres in Britain. We have taken productions to venues as far flung as North America and China. All of this is testament to the tremendous achievement of all the thousands of members who have contributed to every aspect of The Questors over the last 80 years and more, transforming us into the largest independent community theatre in Europe.