Thurso Players was formed in 1950 following the demise of the Thurso Dramatic Society, Thurso Dramatic Club and earlier Caithness drama groups that can be traced back to the 1890s.
Despite the logistical problems of finding rehearsal and performance spaces the Players thrived, and in 1959 founder member Robin Sinclair offered a building in the old mill complex to the club – if they could make it safe and watertight. In the days before “health and safety” it was all hands on deck and those who could worked on the building, while those who couldn’t put on plays.
The mill was comprised of the link building (which is attached to what is now the Thurso Youth Club) and the east kiln. The link building was in fairly good condition, however the east kiln was roofless and derelict. As Dounreay attracted “incomers” in the 1960s new clubs and societies popped up as friendly rivals to Thurso Players, so the Players set about improving the link building and thoughts of turning the east kiln into a small theatre emerged.
Plays were rehearsed and eventually put on in the small space of the link building’s second floor, seating an audience of 39 in what is now the dressing room and wardrobe. The plays proved popular in the mill building, and in 1976 Thurso Players headed off to the British Finals of the One-Act Play Festival in Wales. This proved pivotal, and soon the members decided to establish their own theatre and pursue the renovation of the east kiln.
Trials and tribulations hampered the renovation (including the gable end of the kiln building collapsing one dark and stormy night), but in 1982 phase one started (to rebuild the wall and add a new roof and auditorium floor) closely followed by phase two. In 1988 Robin, who was by then the Lord Lieutenant, invited Her Majesty The Queen Mother to re-open the theatre, before phase three added the final improvements to the building.
What started out as a dream in 1960 became reality and, thanks to the hard work and dedication of members of Thurso Players, The Mill Theatre was born. A theatre licence was obtained in 1989.
We are proud to maintain our link with the Sinclair family who played such a large part in founding the society, providing the original building and supporting Thurso Players over the years. The current Lord Lieutenant John Thurso is our Honorary President
Thurso Players wouldn’t be the Players without the plays, and over the years they have delighted, intrigued and sometimes shocked the community.
The society has been a regular participant in the Scottish Community Drama Association Festival of One-Act Plays since the 1950s, and despite numbers dropping nationally over the years we still look forward to the festival each year. Both adult and junior sections have reached the Scottish finals and, as mentioned, it was the British final that kickstarted the formation of the theatre in the 1970s.
Although numerous one-act plays have been staged in The Mill, the extra space for rehearsals and performances allowed the Players to perform full-length plays. Everything from Shakespeare and Moliere to Aykbourn and Alan Bennett has been performed here. Every year, at our planning meeting, Thurso Players decide on the performances for the year ahead, and try to stage a variety to appeal to all members of the community.
Our showpiece every year is the pantomime we produce at Thurso High School. Regularly attended by a huge proportion of Thurso residents, the pantomime is staged over five performances mid-December with around 1,500 audience members enjoying the spectacle. In recent years we have also produced a musical at The Mill which has delighted audiences who want more than a play to keep them entertained.
As you can imagine, members of Thurso Players are dedicated to the enrichment and entertainment of Caithness.
A regular team of volunteers runs the society and keeps The Mill Theatre in shape. The committee ensures the smooth running overall, while our Tuesday night maintenance gang keeps the building ship-shape both before, during and after shows. We also have dedicated wardrobe, props, scene painting and front of house teams and volunteers that run the Junior section.
We are a registered Scottish charity, but we are also a family.
Come and join us.