Official website: https://www.theplayhousetheatre.co.uk/
Dates: 1882 – present
Charing Cross, London
Owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG)
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.
Originally known as the Royal Avenue Theatre, then the Avenue Theatre.
Rebuilt in 1905, and reopened as The Playhouse on 28 January 1907.
Original Stage Machinery
Restored by David Wilmore as part of the refurbishment in 1987.
Listing below from the British Performing Arts Directory 1994
- 1 x Star Trap (610mm x 405mm DSL)
- 1 x Grave Trap (710mm x 1805mm DSC)
- 3 x Full length bridges DS & MS (5500mm long and 835mm deep)
- US bridge in 3 sections (2 outer sections 2440mm wide x 1150mm long, centre section 2420mm wide x 1150mm long)
- Thunder Run by back wall
Selected Recent Productions
- Good (6 October – 19 December 2020) starring David Tennant
- A Doll’s House (10 June – 5 September 2020) starring Jessica Chastain
- The Seagull (11 March 2020 – 30 May 2020) starring Emilia Clarke
- Cyrano de Bergerac (27 Nov 2019 – Sat 29 Feb 2020) starring James McAvoy
- Fiddler on the Roof (21 March 2019 – 2 November 2019) directed by Trevor Nunn, starring Andy Nyman and Judy Kuhn (transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory)
- Caroline, Or Change (20 November 2018 – 9 February 2019)
- The Jungle (16 June – 3 November 2018) directed by Stephen Daldry
- The Best Man (5 March 2018 – 26 May 2018) by Gore Vidal, starring Martin Shaw & Maureen Lipman
- Glengarry Glen Ross (9 November 2017 or 26 December 2017 – 3 February 2018) starring Christian Slater & Kris Marshall
- The Kite Runner (8 June 2017 – 26 August 2017)
- David Baddiel – My Family: Not The Sitcom (28 March 2017 – 3 June 2017)
- An Inspector Calls (Friday 4 November 2016 – 25 March 2017)
- 1984 (Wed 29 June 2016 – Sat 29 October 2016)
- The End Of Longing (written by and starring Matthew Perry) (11 February 2016 – 14 May 2016)
- Spamalot (14 November 2012 – 12 April 2014) transferred from the Harold Pinter Theatre
- December 2013: ATG took over full ownership of the theatre
- The Mystery of Charles Dickens (featuring Simon Callow) (?21 August 2012 – 10 November 2012)
- Dreamboats and Petticoats (2012)
- La Cage Aux Folles (October 20, 2008 – January 2, 2010)
- My Name Is Rachel Corrie (2006) Starring Megan Dodds, written by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner.
- Hedda Gabler (2005) starring Eve Best, directed by Richard Eyre
- Journey’s End (2004)
- Vincent in Brixton (2003) starring Clare Higgins, directed by Richard Eyre
- Dancing in the Streets
- The Adventures of Tintin
- The Harder They Come
- 2002 – Maidstone Productions purchased the theatre, with the venue managed by Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG)
- An Inspector Calls (2001)
- Journey’s End () directed by David Grindley.
- Naked (1998)
- The Judas Kiss () by David Hare
- HRH () directed by Simon Callow
- The Wood Demon (1997)
- 1996 – Theatre closed for complete refurbishment, under the direction of English Heritage.
- A Dolls House (1996) directed by Anthony Page, starring Janet McTeer
- 1996 – Ray Cooney sells the Playhouse to Patrick Sulaiman Cole (US banker)
- Funny Money (1995)
- On Approval (1994) starring Simon Ward, Martin Jarvis, Anna Carteret
- Jane Eyre (1993) adapted by Fay Weldon, starring Tim Pigott-Smith
- It Runs in the Family (1992) by Ray Cooney
- 1992 – Jeffrey Archer sold the Playhouse to Ray Cooney for just over £2million.
- Tartuffe (1991) starring Paul Eddington and Felicity Kendal
- The Rose Tattoo (1991) by Tennessee Williams, starring Julie Walters
- 1991 – The theatre became home to the Peter Hall Company
- 1989 -Theatre sponsored by financial services company, and for a while it was known as the MI Group Playhouse.
- 1988 – Jeffrey Archer bought the Playhouse for just over £1 million.
- Girlfriends (October 1987 – ?)
- October 1987 – The theatre was restored to its 1907 design by impresario Robin Gonshaw, opening again in October 1987. A commercial building, Aria House, was erected above the theatre.
- 1986: The theatre and exterior were used to shoot the Queen video A Kind of Magic
- BBC moved out in 1976, and the theatre was dark for many years.
- Taken over as a BBC Studio in 1951 – used as a recording venue for radio shows such as the Goon Show, Steptoe and Son and Hancock’s Half Hour.
Some information from West End Theatres blog
History (from the official website)
The theatre was initiated in 1882 by Sefton Parry, a speculative theatre builder, who bought the site hoping it would have to be purchased from him by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway Company, whose terminus was alongside. The Royal Avenue Theatre opened on 11 March 1882 with a revival of Offenbach’s Madam Favart. The prefix Royal was soon dropped from the theatre’s name, but comic operas, burlesques and the like remained the staple fare for several years. For much of this time, Arthur Roberts, a popular star of the music halls, led the company at the Avenue.
In the early 1890s the emphasis changed to drama and in 1894 Miss Horniman, the tea heiress, later a pioneer of the repertory movement, anonymously sponsored the actress Florence Farr in a season of plays. Sadly, the first production failed but Miss Farr persuaded her friend, a certain George Bernard Shaw, to finish his play, Arms and the Man, as a speedy replacement and his first West End production. It was successful enough to allow him to drop his music criticism in favour of play writing.
The theatre was rebuilt in 1905 to the designs of Blow & Billerey. During the work, part of the roof of the adjacent Charing Cross railway station collapsed. The roof and girders fell across the train lines but part of the stations western wall also fell and crashed through the roof and wall of the theatre. This resulted in the deaths of three people in the station, and three workmen who working on the site of theatre and injured many more. The theatre was repaired and re-opened as the Playhouse Theatre on 28th January 1907 with a one act play called The Drums of Oudh and a play called Toddles, by Tristan Bernard and Andre Godfernaux.
Since then, the beautiful Playhouse has hosted the likes of WS Gilbert, legendary actress-manager Gladys Cooper, the BBC, The Almeida Theatre Company, The Peter Hall Company, and Janet McTeer. In January 2003, Maidstone Productions became the new independent owners of the Theatre. Maidstone Productions, belonging to London and Broadway producers Ted and Norman Tulchin, has been behind a string of hit productions on both sides of the Atlantic, including Gagarin Way, Eden and Vincent in Brixton in the West End; Yazmina Reza’s The Unexpected Man, as well as Donald Margulies’ Dinner with Friends, which won the Pulitzer Prize. This was in addition to Turgenev’s Fortune’s Fool on Broadway, starring Alan Bates and Frank Langella, both winning Tony Awards for best actor and best supporting actor.
The Ambassador Theatre Group have maintained stewardship of the Playhouse Theatre since 2003 and have recently acquired 100% ownership from it’s partners Maidstone Productions.