Dates: 1960 – present
Portugal Street, Kingsway London WC2
Architects Lewis Solomon, Kaye and Partners.
Original seating capacity was 887 (stalls 599, circle 288)
Official website: Peacock Theatre
Formerly named The Royalty Theatre, this 999-seat theatre was built in 1960, as part of a development replacing the Stoll Theatre (see below), which was demolished in 1958. The Royalty Theatre was almost immediately used for cinema presentations, as MGM took over the running of the venue in 1961.
It was used almost exclusively as a cinema for many years, showing films in the Cinerama and then 70mm formats. It closed as a cinema in 1969 and returned to live theatre use.
In 1980 it became the venue for the taping of the TV show This Is Your Life, after Cats took up residence in the New London Theatre, which was used between 1978 and 1980. The show used the Royalty Theatre until 1988.
The venue is currently part of the London School of Economics, and was renamed The Peacock Theatre by them. It is used as a lecture theatre during the day, and by the Sadlers Wells Company for dance-related performances and visiting productions in the evenings.
The Peacock Theatre is most noted as the home of one of the West End’s most unusual ghosts, a dolphin commonly known as ‘Flipper’. An urban myth has grown up that, during one of Paul Raymond’s revues at the theatre in the 1970s, a dolphin was kept in a tank beneath the stage, where it lived permanently and later died from neglect. In fact, this is not true. Two dolphins called ‘Pennie’ and ‘Pixie’ were indeed kept in a tank at the theatre for three months for a show called ‘The Royalty Folies’, which was later renamed ‘The Great International Nude Show’. However, neither of these animals died while at the theatre and at the close of the show the animals were moved to a dolphinarium in the Far East.
The remnants of the tank and its lifting equipment still remain below the stage and numerous visitors to the theatre claim to have heard in the vicinity a spectral squeaking, not unlike a crying baby. One possible explanation is that the London Underground Piccadilly line Aldwych spur used to pass very close to the sub-stage areas of the theatre and it is noise from the tunnels that created the sound.
From The Stage Guide, 1971
Electrics – Strand CD/TH II in rear of circle
Dimmers – 120; groups – 14 memory pistons
Circuits – FOH 32; Flies 56; Stage dips 32
Socket type – 15A BESA
Special effects supply – 2 x 60A on 1 phase
Followspots – 2 sunspots in rear of Circle
Sound: Console in rear of circle
No tape decks or turntables
Mic sockets – 2 risers, others to be fitted
Loudspeakers – 10 channel mixer
Links to information about equipment at The Peacock Theatre over the years
Mentions of The Peacock Theatre in indexed journals
View in Google Maps
Selected Past Productions
- Bjork: Vessel concert video recording (February 1994)
- NYT: Maggie May (1 – 19 September 1992)
- Northern Ballet Theatre: Romeo & Juliet (to 9 November 1991)
- The Israel Ballet (19 – 20 October 1991)
- Base for Rambert Dance Company (1991)
- A Clockwork Orange (23 April 1990 – ?) starring Phil Daniels, directed by Ron Daniels
- Cross Country (Feb 1989 for 5 weeks)
- The Browning Version/Harlequinade (previewing to March 17 1988)
- Winnie the Pooh (23 November 1987 – 30 January 1988) directed by Richard Williams, adapted by Glyn Robbins
- The Living Room (to 21 November 1987) directed by Bryan Forbes
- Phil Cool In Concert (13 – 25 April 1987)
- TV Studio
- The Olivier Awards ceremony (7 December 1986)
- Mike Yarwood, ITV one hour special (1982)
- ‘This Is Your Life’ (1980 – 1988)
- Barnardo! (May 22 1980 – ?) musical – written, directed and composed by Ernest Maxin
- The Gingerbread Man (18 December 1979 – 12 January 1980 – matinees only)
- for colored girls... ( – 17 November 1979)
- Bubbling Brown Sugar (running Feb 12 1978)
- An Evening with Sandy Denny (6 & 27th November 1977)
- Acker Bilk (28 April 1977)
- John Miles (10/11 March 1977)
- 1977 Venue renamed Sound Circus
- The Water Babies (1973)
- Oh Calcutta! (30 September 1970 – 27 January 1974) then transferred to Duchess Theatre
- ‘Goldberg & Solomon’ or ‘Gilbert and Sullivan Go Kosher’ (4 May 1970 – limited season)
- Cinema use
- 19 November 1962 Gala premiere for ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’
- May 1961 ‘Ben Hur’
- Masterpiece (26 January 1961 – ?) directed by Henry Kaplan, designed by Richard Negri
- An Evening with Zizi Jeanmaire (November 2 1960 – 3 weeks) including world premiere of Somerset Maugham’s ‘Rain’
- The Visit (1960) lighting design by Joe Davis
Originally opened in 1911 as the London Opera House – a rival to the Royal Opera House – built by the American impresario Oscar Hammerstein.
The procenium opening was 44 feet and the stage was 83 feet deep.
Demolished in 1958
Selected Past Productions
- Salute the Soldier (194?)
- The venue was closed in 1912 after failing to draw enough audiences
- Quo Vadis (1911)