Trafalgar Studios, July 2007
|Owner||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Capacity||Studio 1 380 seats
Studio 2 100 seats
|Opened||29 September 1930|
|Rebuilt||2004 Tim Foster and John Muir|
|Architect||Edward A. Stone|
|Trafalgar Studios website (at Ambassador Theatre Group)|
Also known as Trafalgar Studios at the Whitehall Theatre in honour of its former incarnation, the building consists of two intimate theatres designed by architects Tim Foster and John Muir. Studio 1, the larger of the two spaces with 380 seats, opened on 3 June 2004 with the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Othello. Studio 2, with 100 seats, opened in October 2005 with the play Cyprus.
1930 to 1996
The original Whitehall Theatre, built on the site of the 17th century Ye Old Ship Tavern was designed by Edward A. Stone, with interiors in the Art Deco style by Marc-Henri and Laverdet. It had 634 seats. The theatre opened on 29 September 1930 with The Way to Treat a Woman by Walter Hackett, who was the theatre's licensee. In November 1933 Henry Daniell appeared there as Portman in Afterwards. Hackett presented several other plays of his own before leaving in 1934, and the theatre built its reputation for modern comedies throughout the rest of the decade. During World War II it housed revues, which had become commonplace entertainment throughout the West End. In 1942, The Whitehall Follies, featuring Phyllis Dixey, the first stripper to perform in the theatre district, opened with great fanfare and became an immediate success. Dixey leased the theatre and remained in it for the next five years.
A series of five long-running farces, presented under the umbrella title "Whitehall farce" by the actor-manager Brian Rix, were staged at the theatre from 1950 to 1966: Reluctant Heroes, by Colin Morris (1950–54); Dry Rot, by John Chapman (1954–58); Simple Spymen (1958–61); One For the Pot, by Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton (1961–64); and Chase Me, Comrade, by Cooney (1964–66). Excerpts from the shows were televised by the BBC.
In 1969 a nude revue called Pyjama Tops took over the venue and remained for five years, after which the building was shuttered until July 1982 when a production of "Private Dick" starring Robert Powell ran for 16 weeks. After considerable refurbishment that retained most of its Art Deco features, it reopened on 5 March 1986 with a successful revival of J.B. Priestley's When We Are Married. Subsequent productions included When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Foreigner, Run For Your Wife, Absurd Person Singular, Travels with My Aunt, tributes to Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison and the Blues Brothers, and solo performances by Ennio Marchetto and Maria Friedman.
1997 to present
Between 1997 and 1999, the theatre was converted into a television and radio studio used primarily to broadcast Jack Docherty's popular talk show and BBC Radio 4's Live from London. It returned to theatrical use, with such productions as Three Sisters, Puppetry of the Penis, "Art", Rat Pack Confidential, and Sing-a-Long-a-ABBA, before its owner, the Ambassador Theatre Group, announced the building would be reconfigured and reopen with a new name.
Since 2004, Trafalgar Studios has presented short runs of revivals of classic plays and musicals, including Sweeney Todd (2004); Losing Louis (2005); a season by the RSC repertory season, from December 2005 to February 2006, of plays including Sir Thomas More, Sejanus: His Fall and Believe What You Will; an adaptation of Jane Eyre by Polly Teale (2006); Bent (2006–07); Elling (2007); Dealer's Choice (2007–08); Fat Pig (2008, transferring to the Comedy Theatre); Entertaining Mr Sloane (2009) and A Christmas Carol (2010–11). Three Days in May showed at the theatre from November 2011 to March 2012.
The theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in December 1996, noting "The auditorium has a decorative cohesion and prettiness rare in theatres of its day, and has the best surviving original fabric of this type of theatre".
Recent and present productions
- The Pride (14 August 2013 – 9 November 2013)
- Three Days in May (2 November 2011 – 3 March 2012)
- Macbeth (9 February – 27 April 2013, starring James MacAvoy in the title role)
- The Hothouse (4 May - 3 August 2013, starring John Simm and Simon Russell Beale)
- Another Country (26 March – 21 June 2014)
- Richard III (1 July – 27 September 2014, starring Martin Freeman in the title role)
Nearby Tube stations
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2008)|
- Gaye, pp. 1555–1555
- "12 Successful Years for Mr. Brian Rix", The Times, 13 September 1962, p. 12
- Gaye, pp. 1530–38
- Smith, p. 91
- English Heritage listing details accessed 28 April 2007
- Star of The Hobbit Martin Freeman to play Richard III accessed 22 April 2014
- Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 146–7 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
- Theatre history
- Who's Who in the Theatre, edited by John Parker, tenth edition, revised, London, 1947, pps: 477-478.
- Gaye, Freda (ed.) (1967). Who's Who in the Theatre (fourteenth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. OCLC 5997224.
- Smith, Leslie (1967). Modern British Farce: A Selective Study of British Farce from Pinero to the Present Day. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-44878-2.
- Official Website of Trafalgar Studios
- Whitehall Theatre at English Heritage
- History of the Whitehall Theatre