The Noel Coward Theatre opened as the 'New Theatre' on the 12th of March 1903 with the play' 'Rosemary' by Louis N. Parker, and starring Charles Wyndham and his wife Mary Moore. The Theatre was built for Sir Charles Wyndham by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague. It was Sprague who had designed Charles Wyndham's first Theatre, the 'Wyndham's Theatre' in Charing Cross Road, which had opened in November 1899.
When Wyndham bought the land to build his first Theatre he also acquired the land to the rear of it which he had originally intended to sell on. However this deal fell through and he decided he might as well build another Theatre on this spare land which fronted onto St. Martin's Lane. Hence the new Theatre was built and named The New Theatre, which was only the second to be built on St. Martin's Lane. The first was The Trafalgar Square Theatre, now known as The Duke Of York's which opened in 1892. The London Coliseum was also being built on St. Martin's lane during the building of The New but it didn't open until 1904.
The New Theatre auditorium, with a capacity of 877, was built on four levels, Stalls, Dress Circle, Upper Circle, and Gallery, and decked out in the so called 'Free Clasical Style' in Cream and Gold which is much how it remains today. The Theatre backs onto the Wyndham's Theatre and both Theatres share the same stage door. There is also a bridge joining the Theatres above the public passageway that runs between them.
The Programme on the opening night of the New Theatre enthused thus:- 'The front elevation is of the free classic order, and is at once dignified and effective. The Theatre is approached by a roomy Vestibule leading to one of the most picturesque Crush Rooms to be found in any theatre in London. Mr W. G. R. Sprague, the Architect, has excelled himself, in this, his thirtieth theatre, and from an architectural point of view Sir Charles's New Theatre is the acme of perfection... ....On entering the Auditorium one is immediately struck with the exquisite lines on which the theatre has been designed, a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage being obtained from literally every part of the Theatre, even to the extreme corner seats at the back of the gallery.
The Theatre is constructed on the modern cantilever principle, thus rendering columns of any sort unnecessary. The Theatre is equipped with all modern and scientific appliances. In short, everything that ingenuity and experience can accomplish has been done... ...Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the Theatre is the exquisite treatment of decoration, which is of the period of Louis XVI and has been adhered to, even down to the minutest details, throughout. The prominent colours are white and gold, relieved by curtains and hangings of Rose du Barri brocade and antique velvet.
The seats in the Stalls and Dress Circle are exceptionally beautiful being upholstered in Aubusson tapestry. Over the Proscenium will be seen a perfectly modelled gilt trophy emblematic of Peace and Music, while on either side are models of Cupids, illustrating Winter and Summer, copied from bronzes in the collections of Mr Claude Ponsonby. The panels in the Auditorium are decorated with beautiful portrait medallions of the French Kings and Queens.' From the New Theatre opening night souvenir Programme of 1903.
The New Theatre had a change of name to The Albery Theatre on the 1st of January 1973 and the auditorium levels were renamed at the same time, to: Stalls, Royal Circle, Grand Circle, and Balcony. The Albery Theatre had another change of name in May 2006, this time to the Noel Coward Theatre, when Delfont Mackintosh Theatres bought the Theatre.
After opening in 1903 with a production of Rosemary starring Charles Wyndham and his wife, Mary Moore (3 July 1861 – 6 April 1931), the Noël Coward Theatre has hosted a number productions. I'll Leave it to You, in 1920, was Coward's first play. George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan with an acclaimed performance by actress Sybil Thorndike ran in 1924.
The 1930s saw the greatest commercial success of John Gielgud's career, Richard of Bordeaux (1933). Gielgud followed up this triumph with a legendary production of Hamlet in which he both played the title role and directed a company that included Jessica Tandy, Jack Hawkins and a young Alec Guinness in one of his first professional roles as Osric. Gielgud also appeared with Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft and Edith Evans in Romeo and Juliet. With the Blitz came the destruction of the theatres that were home to the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells Theatre Companies. Both companies made the New Theatre home until their respective theatres were rebuilt in the 1950s. One of the most successful shows to play the New Theatre opened 30 June 1960. It was Lionel Bart's Oliver!, which ran for 2,618 performances.
A 1970 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Dion Boucicault's London Assurance, directed by Ronald Eyre, with Donald Sinden as Sir Harcourt Courtly, (for which he received the 1975 Drama Desk Special Award) Roger Rees as Charles, Judi Dench as Grace and Dinsdale Landen as Dazzle, transferred to the New Theatre in 1972 for a year, prior to its 1974 run in New York. In 1981, Children of a Lesser God won Olivier Awards for Best New Play and for actors Trevor Eve and Elizabeth Quinn. Among some of the 1980s productions is the 1994 revival of Turgenev's A Month in the Country starring Helen Mirren and John Hurt.
In the 2000s the theatre has played host to several Shakespeare productions including a production of Twelfth Night set in India with an entirely Asian cast. The production played to packed houses and only closed as the Royal Shakespeare Company themselves had exclusive rights to perform their annual London season of Tragedies there. Between December 2004 and April 2005, they presented Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear and a brand new production of Euripides' Hecuba starring Vanessa Redgrave.
On 8 June 2005, Dion Boucicault's Victorian melodrama The Shaughraun opened; however, its success at the Dublin Gate Theatre was not repeated in London and it closed on 30 July. A dark period of around three months followed before the theatre was transferred to the ownership of Delfont Mackintosh Limited and reopened in October 2005 with The Right Size's new production Ducktastic!. Once again this failed to live up to expectations and closed just three weeks after opening on 19 November 2005. A short Christmas season of Patrick Stewart's one-man version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol played from 6 to 31 December 2005, before the theatre hosted the Edinburgh International Festival hit drama Blackbird starring Roger Allam. The award-winning play Enron (directed by Rupert Goold, starring Samuel West and Tim Pigott-Smith) transferred here after a sellout run at the Royal Court. The European premiere of the Broadway hit, Avenue Q, started previewing on 2 June 2006 and had its opening night on 28 June 2006, finally closing on 28 March 2009 prior to transferring to the Gielgud Theatre. Planned productions are Girl from the North Country (11 January 2018 – 24 March 2018); Quiz (10 April 2018 – 16 June 2018) by James Graham and The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh (4 July 2018 – 8 September 2018) starring Aidan Turner.
Discounts are offered, subject to availability, for disabled theatregoers and one companion, including wheelchair users and Patrons who have specific access requirements. To discuss your visit and availability please call 0344 482 5137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They have x20 infra-red headsets held at the Cloakroom available from the duty manager in the Foyer. A deposit of £5 or credit card/driving licence is required that will be returned at the end of the performance. No Loop system available in the auditorium. The box office have a portable Induction Loop 'T' system for window sales for patrons who use hearing aids. The Lieutenant of Inishmore Audio Described performance: Wednesday 8th August 2018: 3.00pm.
Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs & registered Assistance Dogs. Guide dogs are allowed in to the auditorium. Alternatively, staff are happy to dog sit.
Wheelchairs. There is a ramp (gradient 30-40%, handrail on both sides) through the front door on St Martin's Lane. Box M (door 68cm wide) has 2 spaces for wheelchair/scooter users, or 1 wheelchair user and a companion. Companions can also be seated in the Royal Circle. Transfer seating available to any aisle seat in Royal Circle. 2 wheelchairs and 2 scooters maximum. Wheelchairs stored in the cloakroom, scooters in the foyer. Groups should ring in advance.
Toilets. Women's: Foyer: 2 steps up, 4 small cubicles - 1st one by door largest. Stalls: rear of stalls in auditorium 3 cubicles. Grand Circle: outside auditorium 4 cubicles. Men's: Foyer/Royal Circle: None on level except disabled toilet. Stalls: front stalls in corridor by Box A - 1 cubicle rear of auditorium - 1 cubicle. Grand Circle: inside auditorium 1 cubicle Balcony: inside auditorium 1 cubicle. Disabled Toilets. Toilet on Foyer level by Cloakroom.
Bars. 3 licensed bars. Stalls bar 20 steps down from the main foyer, or 2 steps up from the Stalls (moveable seats). Further bars at Royal Circle and Balcony levels (no seats). Drinks can be taken to access customers.
Location : Noël Coward Theatre, 85-88 St Martin's Ln, London WC2N 4AP
Booking Office : 0844 482 5141
Tel: 0344 482 5137