Playhouse Theatre

Playhouse Theatre

Infobox Theatre
name = Playhouse Theatre

caption = "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" at the Playhouse Theatre in May 2006
address = Northumberland Avenue
city = Westminster, London
country =
designation = Grade II listed
latitude = 51.506944
longitude = -0.123611
architect = F. H. Fowler & Hill
owner = Ambassador Theatre Group
capacity = 786 on 3 levels
type = West End theatre
opened = 11 March 1882
yearsactive =
rebuilt = 1907 Blow and Billerey
closed =
othernames = Royal Avenue Theatre Avenue Theatre
production = The Harder They Come
currentuse =
website =

The Playhouse Theatre is a West End theatre in the City of Westminster, located in Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square. The Theatre was built by F. H. Fowler and Hill with a seating capacity of 1,200. It was rebuilt in 1907 and still retains its original substage machinery. Its current seating capacity is 786.


Early years

Originally the Royal Avenue Theatre, it opened on March 11 1882 with 679 seats. The first production at the theatre was Jacques Offenbach's "Madame Favart". In its early seasons, the theatre hosted comic operas, burlesques and farces for several years. For much of this time, the low comedian, Arthur Roberts, a popular star of the music halls, starred at the theatre. By the 1890s, the theatre was presenting drama, and in 1894 Annie Horniman, the tea heiress, anonymously sponsored the actress Florence Farr in a season of plays at the theatre. Farr's first production was unsuccessful, and so she prevailed upon her friend, George Bernard Shaw to hurry and make his West End début at the theatre with "Arms and the Man" in 1894. It was successful enough to allow him to discontinue music criticism to focus full time on play writing. The legendary actress manager Gladys Cooper ran the theatre for some years.

The theatre was rebuilt in 1905 to the designs of Blow and Billerey. During the work, a block of masonry dropped from the adjacent Charing Cross railway station, falling through the roof of the theatre and killing six workmen and injuring many more. The theatre was repaired and re-opened as The Playhouse on January 28 1907 with a one-act play called "The Drums of Oudh" and a play called "Toddles," by Tristan Bernard and Andre Godferneaux. The new theatre had a smaller seating capacity of 679. W. Somerset Maugham's "Home and Beauty" premièred at the Playhouse on August 30 1919, running for 235 performances, and Henry Daniell appeared here in February 1926 as the Prince of Karaslavia in "Mr. Abdulla". Nigel Bruce appeared in February 1927 as Robert Crosbie in Somerset Maugham's "The Letter", and again in May 1930 as Robert Brennan in "Dishonoured Lady". Alec Guinness made his stage début here in Ward Dorane's play "Libel!" on April 2 1934. Daniell returned in November that year as Paul Miller in "Hurricane".

BBC studio and later years

In 1951 it was taken over by the BBC as a recording studio for live performances. "The Goon Show" and the radio versions of "Hancock's Half Hour" and "Steptoe and Son" were recorded here, although at least the first two shows were recorded at other venues during their runs. The stage also hosted live performances by "The Beatles" and "The Rolling Stones". On April 3 1967 a live Pink Floyd concert was broadcast from the theatre. [ [ Pink Floyd timeline] accessed 27 Mar 2007]

When the BBC left around 1976, the theatre went dark and was in danger of demolition, but it was saved and restored to its 1907 design by impressario Robin Gonshaw, opening again in October 1987 with the musical "Girlfriends". A commercial building, Aria House, was erected above the theatre.

In 1988 the novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer bought the Playhouse for just over £1 million. The following year, the theatre was offered commercial sponsorship by a financial services' company, and for a while it was known as the MI Group Playhouse. In 1991 the Playhouse became home to the Peter Hall Company, and a number of critically and comercially successful plays were performed there, including: Tenessee Williams's "The Rose Tattoo" (1991), starring Julie Walters, and Molliere's "Tartuffe" (1991), starring Paul Eddington and Felicity Kendal. It was around this time that the basement bar area of the theatre was converted into a private restaurant, Shaws, though this didn't prove successful and the space was later converted back into a bar/cafe.

In 1992 Archer sold the Playhouse to the writer and impressario Ray Cooney for just over £2 million. That year Cooney staged the West End premier of his latest farce "It Runs in the Family" at the Playhouse. This was followed by "Jane Eyre" (1993), adapted by Fay Weldon and starring Tim Pigott-Smith; Frederick Lonsdale's "On Approval", (1994), starring Simon Ward, Martin Jarvis and Anna Carteret, and Ray Cooney's "Funny Money" in 1995.

Following a critically-acclaimed revival of Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" in 1996, starring Janet McTeer, the theatre was sold and closed again for refurbishment, reopening in 1997 as a producing house with the West End première of Anton Chekov's "The Wood Demon". This was poorly received, and the theatre returned to life as a commercial receiving house. However, the auditorium is luxuriously decorated, with grandiose murals, caryatids, golden pillars, carved balustrades, and shining gold decoration.

Successes at the Playhouse since the late 1990s have included "Naked" (1998); J. B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls" (2001) and "Journey's End", directed by David Grindley. American theatrical producers Ted and Norman Tulchin's Maidstone Productions purchased the theatre at the end of 2002, [ [ "thisistheatre" Playhouse theatre history] accessed 28 Mar 2007] and the venue is being managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group. The Playhouse then hosted Richard Eyre's 2003 Olivier Award-winning production of "Vincent in Brixton", starring Clare Higgins; and Eyre's 2005 production of "Hedda Gabler", starring Eve Best. Megan Dodds starred in a revival of the controversial "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" in 2006. The musical "Dancing in the Streets" is playing at the theatre as of March 2007.

Recent and present productions

* "Three Sisters" (3 April 2003 - 29 June 2003) by Anton Chekhov, translated by Christopher Hampton, starring Kristin Scott Thomas
* "Vincent in Brixton" (19 July 2003 - 23 August 2003) by Nicholas Wright
* "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" (12 December 2003 - 10 January 2004) by Christopher Hampton
* "Journey's End" (3 May 2004 - 2 October 2004) by R.C. Sherriff
* "Romeo and Juliet" (18 November 2004 - 9 January 2005) by William Shakespeare
* The RSC: "House of Desires" (1 February 2005 - 21 March 2005) by Sor Juana de la Cruz
* The RSC: "Dog in the Manger" (2 February 2005 - 26 March 2005) by Lope de Vega, translated by David Johnston
* The RSC: "Pedro, The Great Pretender" (17 February 2005 - 12 March 2005) by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Philip Osment
* "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (8 June 2005 - 3 September 2005) by James M. Cain adapted by Andrew Rattenbury, starring Val Kilmer
* "As You Desire Me" (27 October 2005 - 22 January 2006) by Luigi Pirandello, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Bob Hoskins
* "The Creeper" (9 February 2006 - 18 March 2006) by Pauline Macaulay, starring the late Ian Richardson
* "My Name is Rachel Corrie" (30 March 2006 - 21 May 2006) by Alan Rickman and Katherine Vilner, starring Megan Dodds
* "The Rocky Horror Show" (4 July 2006 - 22 July 2006) by Richard O'Brien, starring David Bedella and Suzanne Shaw
* "Dancing in the Streets" (1 August 2006 - 14 July 2007)
* "Footloose - The Musical" (17 August 2007 - 6 December 2007)
* "The Adventures of Tintin" (9 December 2007 - 12 January 2008), adapted from Hergé's novels
* "Ring Round the Moon" (19 February 2008 - 29 March 2008) by Christopher Fry, adapted from Jean Anouilh's "L'Invitation au Château", directed by Sean Mathias, starring Angela Thorne
* "The Harder They Come" (23 March 2008 - 13 September 2008) by Perry Henzel
* "La Cage aux Folles" (21 October 2008 - )

ee also

*List of London theatres
*List of West End musicals
*List of notable musical theatre productions
*Musical theatre



* "Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950", John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 131 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
* "Who's Who in the Theatre", edited by John Parker, 10th edition revised, London, 1947.
* [ History of the theatre]
* [ Playhouse Theatre history and images] at the Arthur Lloyd site
* [ Profile of the theatre]
* [ Architectural information about the theatre]
* [ Another profile of the theatre]
* [ Theatre history]

External links

* [ Official Web Site]
* [ 2003 news article about the theatre]

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