Globe Theatre (Newcastle Street)
|Address||Newcastle Street (Aldwych)
|Current use||Site occupied by Bush House|
|Rebuilt||1870 Walter Emden|
The Globe was a Victorian theatre built in 1868 and demolished in 1902. It was the third of five London theatres to bear the name. It was also known at various times as the Royal Globe Theatre or Globe Theatre Royal. Its repertoire consisted mainly of comedies and musical shows. The theatre's most famous production was Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas, which enjoyed a record-setting run at the theatre, having transferred to it from the Royalty Theatre.
Earlier theatres with the name "Globe Theatre" included Shakespeare’s Bankside house, which closed in 1642, and the former Rotunda Theatre in Blackfriars Road, which opened in 1833 for a few years and was renamed The Globe.
Design and history of the building
The new Globe was built to the commission of its proprietor, Sefton Parry, and stood on the corner of Wych Street and Newcastle Streets, on the site of Lyon's Inn, lately demolished, an old Inn of Chancery, belonging in former days to the Inner Temple. The Globe backed on to another theatre owned by Parry, the even more jerry-built Opera Comique, which opened two years before the Globe. The two theatres were known as 'the rickety twins': both were of such flimsy construction that performers could hear each other through the common wall. Parry built the theatre cheaply, hoping ‘to make handsome profits in compensation when the area was demolished, which was even then in contemplation’. It remained in contemplation for more than thirty years.
The Globe was taken over and partially rebuilt only two years after its opening. The architect was Walter Emden, whose surviving London theatres are The Duke of York’s, and (in collaboration) The Garrick Theatre and Royal Court Theatre. Old and New London described the theatre thus:
- The auditorium is effectively decorated in relief, and has a domed ceiling, with a sunlight in the centre. The site having been excavated very considerably for the proposed hotel [an abandoned project], the floor of the pit has been made many feet below the line of the street, and is approached by a steep flight of steps from Wych Street. In Wych Street also are the entrances to the gallery stairs, and that to the "royal box." The ordinary boxes are entered from Newcastle Street, and are on a level with the street, so that stairs are avoided. Here, too, enter the occupants of the stalls. The seats are all fairly commodious, and conveniently placed, so that all that is passing on the stage can be distinctly seen and heard from any part of the house.
The ‘sunlight’ referred to above was a glass roof giving the auditorium natural light, day and night, and allowing ventilation at all times: in an age of gas lighting, the latter would have been a marked advantage. By contrast, at the adjoining Opera Comique audiences ‘perspired and gasped.’ In a print of the 1890s, ‘A visit to the opera’, showing the royal coach on its way to Covent Garden, the dome of the Globe can be seen in the background with its name picked out in electric lights: not a grand enough venue to be favoured with a royal visit, but still an established landmark.
Authorities differ on the size of the house. According to The London Encyclopaedia the capacity was 1,800; Old and New London (1897) puts it at 1,500. In either case it was one of London’s larger theatres. Acknowledging the history of the title ‘Globe Theatre’, the new house featured an act-drop representing a view of Stratford-Upon-Avon. That act-drop was destroyed in a fire, and replaced by another with a view of Anne Hathaway's cottage. The last managers of the theatre were Fred Terry and Julia Neilson.
Productions at the theatre
- Committed for Trial, a farce by W. S. Gilbert (1874) (translated from Le Reveillon by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy).
- The Vicar of Bray, a comic opera by Sydney Grundy and Edward Solomon (1882).
- The Private Secretary, a farce by and starring Sir Charles Hawtrey (transferred from The Prince of Wales's Theatre in 1884.
- Sir Frank Benson’s production of Hamlet (1890).
- The Gay Lord Quex by Arthur Wing Pinero (1899), then the most daring play of its time, with John Hare, Gilbert Howe and Irene Vanbrugh in the cast. In this production, which ran for 300 performances, ladies first smoked cigarettes on stage.
- Charley's Aunt by Brandon Thomas (transferred from The Royalty in 1893), which ran for 1,466 performances in London, the longest run of any theatre piece in the world at that time. It also had a record-breaking four-year run on Broadway and in Paris and toured extensively.
- Illegitimate Drama and Rickety Twins: The Theatres of the Strand accessed 23 March 2007
- London Encyclopaedia, page 319
- 'This Inn, never of much importance, had fallen utterly into disrepute before the beginning of [the 19th] century, and become the resort of gamblers and swindlers... [and] was sold about the year 1863’: Thornbury
- Goodman, p.34
- London Encyclopaedia, p.319. See also this information about theatres of The Strand
- Goodman, p.36
- Goodman, p. 36
- Jessie Bond, quoted in Baily, p, 156
- Rollins & Witts, p.13
- Victorian Web
- London Encyclopedia, p. 319
- London Encyclopedia, p. 319. Its record run was not surpassed by another (non-musical) play in London for another fifty years, when Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit overtook it: see this description of longest London theatre runs
- Baily, Leslie: The Gilbert and Sullivan Book, fourth edition, Cassell & Co, London, 1956
- Earl, John and Michael Sell, Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950 pp. 248 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
- Emory University Shakespeare site accessed 23 March 2007
- Goodman, Andrew: Gilbert and Sullivan’s London, Spellmount Ltd, London, 1988, ISBN 0-946771-31-6
- Mander, Joe: Lost Theatres, quoted at WPI website accessed 23 March 2007
- Rollins, Cyril and R. John Witts: The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, A Record of Productions, Michael Joseph, London, 1962.
- Thornbury, Walter: Old and New London (1897), Volume 3, Chapter 4, pp. 32–35, accessed 23 March 2007
- Weinreb, Ben and Christopher Hibbert: The London Encyclopedia, revised second edition, Papermac, London, 1993, ISBN 978-0-333-57688-5
- History of the theatre and images of programmes at the Arthur Lloyd website