WEST END THEATRES
by Katy Morely
Here is my lowdown on some of the most interesting facts about West End Theatre buildings.
There are approximately 40 theatre venues in the West End, also known as TheatreLand.
As you may know, we have a lot of historic and old theatre buildings in London, and would you be interested to hear that the oldest working theatre is The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, built in 1663?! (However the building that you see today is it’s 4th incarnation.)
This is closely followed (20 years later) by Sadler’s Wells, built in 1683.
Most West End Theatres are very old, being Victorian and Edwardian. They are also mostly privately owned and listed buildings, which is why many of them don't have lifts. Even though many have been refurbished, the builders aren’t allowed to put them in.
Another reason for the lack of modern construction in Theatres is down to lack of space. Theatres such as the Savoy, are so small in the Front of House areas, that when there is a popular show, or a busy night, there’s not enough room for everyone in the bars! However this is made up by the fact that it has a fairly large auditorium, holding up to 1158 people in the audience.
The West End theatre with the smallest auditorium is the Arts Theatre, holding just 350 in the audience.
Although not classed as a ‘West End’ theatre, the Jermyn Street Theatre holds only 70 seats!
The largest is the London Palladium, which has a capacity of 2286! That’s nearly 2000 more people!
One of my favourite theatres is the National Theatre on the Southbank. Although lots of people don’t like the big ‘brutalist’ building, I think it’s a great London landmark and shows that are put on there are some of the best in the world, with not just 1 but 2 auditoriums. And because it's such a modern building (opened in 1976), they have such a big open front of house space, with enough room for cafes, shops and even lifts!
THEATRE FACT #1
The Dominian Theatre was built on the site of the Horse Shoe Brewery at which a devastating Beer Flood occurred in 1814, killing 8 people.
THEATRE FACT #2
The Duchess Theatre holds the record for the shortest running play with it's "run" of The Intimate Revue which before the curtain even dropped at the end of it's very first performance in 1930 due to some serious issues with scene changes that were taking up to 20 minutes each!
Theatre fact #3
The Theatre Royal Haymarket was the very first theatre in London to introduce matinee performances in 1873.
THEATRE Fact #4
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (what a name!), the English architect who designed The Phoenix Theatre also worked on famous structures including Waterloo Bridge, Battersea Power Station and the iconic red telephone box - London certainly wouldn't look the same without him!