Over 100 years of musical theatre

Canterbury Operatic Society logo

Let's start at the very beginning...

Founded in 1906 by a group of local businessmen, Canterbury Operatic Society has been going strong for over a century.  Initially performing the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, the repertoire has expanded over the years to include many operettas, reviews and popular musicals.  


Initially, the shows were performed at the long-gone Theatre Royal in Guildhall Street.  World War One caused a hiatus in performing, with the Society regrouping in 1922, moving to the St. George's Theatre, Lower Bridge Street, two years later.  This theatre closed in 1934, sending the group into a hibernation which was extended by World War Two.


In 1951, the council converted the city's Central Cinema into the Marlowe Theatre, and in 1952, it became the Society's performing home.  During two periods when the Marlowe was redeveloped, the Society has also found a welcome at the Gulbenkian Theatre on the University of Kent campus.


In 2006, we celebrated our centenary year with a variety of events, including a concert which looked back over the many shows that have come and gone, attended by many members and friends, past and present.


Three of the Society's most recent productions have been awarded Accolades of Excellence by our local branch of NODA, which we are very proud of.  Following the first of these shows (The Pirates of Penzance in 2009), we were invited to perform at the Canterbury Festival.  We took this invitation up, and in 2010 presented Love, Grief and Joy at the Savoy, a celebration of the words and music of Gilbert and Sullivan.

What others say...


In his centenary message, The Right Worshipful, The Lord Mayor of the City of Canterbury, Cllr. Lewis Norris, JP called COS "a great asset to the region" and praised our ability to "recruit young people into its fold year after year whilst still holding the enthusiasm of its older members".


Speaking of our 2006 production of Me and My Girl, Constance Lee of the Canterbury AdScene said we achieved "the holy grail of am-dram groups: the audience forgetting they were amateurs".


Over 100 years of music


Success, celebration and awards


Read all about it...

For more on the history of theatre in Canterbury, including the part played by Canterbury Operatic Society, see a book by David Manners (who has often photographed our productions) called Canterbury Stage by Stage : the City's Theatrical Past.


The city's whole theatrical history is covered, from Roman times to the changing fortunes of the local theatres in the twentieth century.  


Find it in local bookshops, or order it online.


Copyright 2021, Canterbury Operatic Society


COS logo by Gemma Musselbrook based on a design by Chris Holden.