A NEW theatrical venture is rising from the ashes of the Lechlade Memorial Hall, that burned down last year.

The village’s Trout Pub - a venue better known for pulling pints than pulling in theatre audiences - is now home to a popular theatre group.

Six fire crews from Fairford, Cirencester, Faringdon, Burford and Cricklade battled the fire at the Memorial Hall in May 2016.

An aerial appliance was rushed from Cheltenham, but the much- loved community hall was completely gutted.

The Lechlade Players, who rehearsed and performed there were left without a home.

Their equipment and papers were also destroyed and the future of the group looked bleak.

With no rehearsal or performance space until the insurance money was sorted out to build a new hall, at first they didn’t know which way to turn.

“We had productions in the pipeline and couldn’t wait the two or three years for the new hall to be built,’’ said John Williams, an actor, director and drama coach based in Lechlade.

So he teamed up with Andy Pritchard, another leading light from the local drama group, to form a hastily pulled together committee to look at their options.

Andy said: “I had just directed an award-winning production of Chekhov’s The Proposal, which reached the semi-finals of the All England Theatre Festival.

“We had already agreed to perform a charity performance of this at the Trout in Lechlade.

“So, less than three weeks after the fire, we were performing to a sell-out audience in the marquee behind the pub.

“We squeezed our performance on to a tiny, makeshift stage and illuminated by a borrowed set of lights.’’

The show was such a success they decided to try and get the pub landlord onboard with the idea of turning his marquee into a new theatre.

He liked the idea and was enthusiastic, welcoming the group to the pub.

Very soon the Theatre In The Trout was born.

A new stage was quickly constructed and was ready in time for the production of Mixed Doubles, a Fedeau farce that was again a total sell-out.

However, the theatre was still in the process of being created.

“We then had to invest in equipment, LED lighting, staging and tiered cinema seating,” said John,

“We found what we needed on the internet and it was close by in Hereford.’’

The revamp and running of the theatre was led by Andy and John and funded by Arts In Lechlade.

There was also a donation from the will of Rosie Bell, one of the founders of the Lechlade Players, another from the Lechlade Lions Club and the players themselves.

The actors are regular participants in the All England Theatre Festival and won an armful of awards at the One Act Play Festival including for The Dreaming, with John as the director.

And Andy notched up the Best Actor award for playing Prospero in a scene from The Tempest.

The latest production saw the actors treading the boards at The Trout again when they performed Neil Simon’s Last Of The Red Hot Lovers.