UK – London – Hippodrome

Dates: 1900 – present


Some information from The Hippodrome Casino history website

1900: Opening

Opened on January 15, 1900, the circus variety theatre was designed for Edward Moss by the renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham. The first shows made use of the 100,000 gallon tank in which polar bears and sea lions would swim.
The opening  night programme featured a number of circus acts (including acrobats, wire acts, a ‘screamingly funny Bucking Mule’, cats & dogs, 21 lions, horse-riding, and a musical show Giddy Ostend, starring music hall performer Little Tich. There’s no evidence that a young Charles Chaplin featured. 
The water tank was illuminated and was able to produce water fountains that shot water to the roof.
A troupe of acrobatic dwarves used to dive from the Minstrel’s Gallery at the top of the building into the pool.
Initially, the orchestra was located in the grand circle, not in an orchestra pit in front of the stage.

In 1904, a Chronophone was on the bill, which featured projected films synchronised with sound played from a disc (years before the system was perfected with releases such as The Jazz Singer (1929)).

In 1905/06, during the construction of Leicester Square tube station, it is thought that part of the elephant run had to be removed from the basement of the Hippodrome to make way for the ticket hall and escalators. [to be confirmed]

1909: Renovation for live theatre

The Hippodrome closed in Spring 1909 for extensive alterations, after ‘an unbroken run of nearly ten years, during which time 5760 performances were given’ (The Observer, July 18 1909).
The venue reopened on 2 August 1909 after £40,000 worth of work to enlarge the stage and advance the proscenium to suit the theatre for variety rather than circus use and, from 1912, revue-style performances.

Harry Houdini performed some of his final and most spectacular acts at the Hippodrome.

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake had its UK debut at the Hippodrome in 1910.

1921: A variety show ‘The Peep Show‘ featured a scene called The Valley of Echoes, featuring lighting effects by ‘Wizard of Light’ Adrian Samoiloff.

Programme - The Peep Show (1921)
[Archive Viewer]
From Backstage Heritage Collection

1932 – The Merry Widow

1947 – 1948 – Starlight Roof
Julie Andrews made her professional solo debut (as ‘The Youthful Prima Donna’) singing the aria ‘Je Suis Titania’ from Mignon as part of a musical revue called Starlight Roof on October 22, 1947. She was still on the programme by May 1948. 

1958 – 1982: The Talk of the Town

In the 1950s the Hippodrome was transformed into the legendary Talk of the Town, and featured a host of major stars from throughout the world including Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr, The Jackson 5 and Tom Jones. This continued until 1982.

Conversion to Talk Of The Town (February 2004)
[External Website]
From Arthur Lloyd website

1983 – 2004: Stringfellows / Casino

2008-2009 La Clique

After various different reincarnations, including a nightclub under the management of Peter Stringfellow, in 2008 the venue returned to its roots as a circus venue for burlesque cabaret La Clique, which closed in June 2009.

2009 – 2012 Restoration

Work to transform and restore the building began in 2009.

The former 100,000 gallon water tank from the original 1900s circus has been transformed into an event space called Lola’s. 

Beck Interiors: London Hippodrome Conversion 
[External Website]

The Theatres Trust

London Hippodrome on the Theatres Trust Database

Links to information about equipment at London Hippodrome over the years

  • Hippodrome Control Desk (Avolites)
  • Documents

    Beck Interiors: London Hippodrome Conversion 
    [External Website]

    London Hippodrome - Arthur Lloyd 
    [External Website]
    From Arthur Lloyd website

    Programme - Grand Opening Night (January 1900)
    [External Website]
    From Victoria & Albert Museum

    Programme - The Peep Show
    From Backstage Heritage Collection

    Conversion to Talk Of The Town (February 2004)
    [External Website]
    From Arthur Lloyd website




    View in Google Maps

    1922 – Jack and the Beanstalk at the London Hippodrome

    1925 – Mercenary Mary

    1932 – Out of the Bottle

    1954 – Wedding in Paris