The Ambassadors Theatre (formerly the New Ambassadors Theatre), is a West End theatre located in West Street, near Cambridge Circus on Charing Cross Road in the City of Westminster. It is one of the smallest of the West End theatres, seating a maximum of 444, with 195 people in the dress circle and 251 in the stalls.
The Ambassadors Theatre opened on Thursday the 5th June 1913 with a production of the play 'Panthea' by Monckton Hoffe. The original plan was to build two Theatres side by side at roughly the same time but the outbreak of the first world war caused the building of the second Theatre, St. Martin's, to be delayed until 1916. Because the Ambassadors Theatre was constructed before the building previously on the site of the St. Martin's Theatre had been demolished, the Ambassadors Theatre itself had to be lower than originally intended so as not to interfere with the 'ancient lights' of the other building. Hence the reason that the stalls of the Ambassadors Theatre are below ground level. Both Theatres were designed by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague.
The ERA reported on the Theatre's opening in 1913 saying:- The general scheme of decoration is Louis XVI and the colour scheme of Parma violet ivory, and dull gold is a refreshing change to the warm colours usually selected in decorative schemes. The Auditorium is arranged with a commodious stalls area, behind which is a good roomy pit, and above this level is the dress circle, and forming part of the smae tier is the family circle, or upper boxes, sufficiently raised to form another distinct circle.' - The ERA, 1913.
The ERA was a weekly National Newspaper which was originally published on Sundays and then, from the 1st of January 1881, on Saturdays instead. Its early editions covered many worldwide topics, and was heavily influenced by the Licenced Victualars of the time. It also carried some details about Theatres, actors, music hall, and related matters. The paper's early motto was 'Education Protection Union Strength'. The theatrical side of its reporting soon began to dominate however, and it's this kind of coverage that eventually led it to become known as 'The Great Theatrical Journal' and 'The Actor's Bible'.
The Stage Newspaper also reported on the opening of the Ambassadors Theatre in their June 12, 1913 edition saying:- 'This new theatre, which was opened on Thursday by Mr. Durrant Swan with Panthea, a new play from the pen of Monckton Hoffe, stands at the corner of West Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, midway between Cambridge Circus on the one side and Great St. Andrew Street on the other.
It is a one-tier house, decorated chiefly in white and gold, with a seating capacity of about 500, there being two rows of stalls and some dozen of pit on the ground floor, and the comparatively spacious and lofty tier above being divided into balcony stalls and upper circle. The stage is large enough to accommodate productions of the drawing-room drama, musical piece, and even romantic drama classes, the three sets, by J. A. Fraser and W. H. Davies, used for Panthea, being displayed to considerable advantage.
This fresh bijou house, which has been erected from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. W. G. R. Sprague, has for [its] proprietors, The Ambassadors Theatre, Limited, Mr. Herbert Jay being the managing director and licensee. Mr. Swan has taken the Ambassadors on a lease, and among the functionaries connected with the new house must be named the general manager, Mr. F. Rolison Littler (well known as Frank Rolison, with Martin Harvey D.C.), the stage manager, the experienced Mr. Lilford Arthur, and Mr. Mark Strong, the musical director, who has lately been on tour as composer and Conductor.'
The world's longest running play, 'The Mousetrap' by Agatha Christie, started its run at the Ambassadors' Theatre on the 25 November 1952, with Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim heading the cast, before moving to the St. Martin's Theatre next door in 1974, where it is still going strong today. In November 2012 the production celebrated its 60th year in the West End. An advertisement carried in a programme for 'Simple Spyman' at the Whitehall Theatre in the 1950s (shown here) shows two women outside the Ambassadors Theatre during the 6th year of 'The Moustrap'. Even then it had clocked up over 2,000 performances and was being billed as the longest running play in the history of British theatre.
In 1996, the venue was bought by its namesake the Ambassador Theatre Group, now the largest operator of theatres in the West End. It was first split into two small spaces, by creating a false floor at circle level, and used by the Royal Court. Then in 1999 the venue was returned to its original design, renamed the New Ambassadors and hosted niche works and plays not normally seen outside of smaller fringe venues. However, within a few years the theatre had largely reverted to playing material seen as more commercially viable for its location in the West End.
On 4 April 2007 it was announced that ATG had sold the venue to Stephen Waley-Cohen, who renamed the venue The Ambassadors as it once was, and began an extensive programme of refurbishments. In 2014, Waley-Cohen announced plans to sell the Ambassadors to Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, who have said they intend to rename the theatre after Stephen Sondheim once the sale is completed. The sale is currently postponed pending redevelopment approval.
After its purchase by the Ambassador Theatre Group under producer Sonia Friedman, productions included Some Explicit Polaroids by Mark Ravenhill, Spoonface Steinberg by Lee Hall, Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett and starring John Hurt, and was the West End's first home of Marie Jones' Stones In His Pockets and The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler.
Recent productions have included the multi-award-winning production of John Doyle's Sweeney Todd which subsequently transferred to Broadway, Ying Tong – A Walk with the Goons, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, Journey's End and the world première of Kate Betts' On the Third Day which won the Channel 4 television series The Play's the Thing. In 2006, the theatre played host to the landmark revival of Peter Hall's production of Waiting for Godot which ran for a strictly limited autumn season.
The theatre is currently home to the continuing London run of Stomp having transferred from the Vaudeville Theatre on 27 September 2007, following the successful Menier Chocolate Factory production of Little Shop of Horrors. Other recent productions have included runs of the Bush Theatre's production of Whipping it Up, starring Richard Wilson and Robert Bathurst, and Love Song, starring Cillian Murphy and Neve Campbell (November 2006 to February 2007).
The children's classic, 'The Very Hungry Catterpillar Show, returns to the Ambassadors this Christmas, 2017.
Patrons with specific access or seating requirements should book with the Box Office direct on 020 7395 5405. Bookings for specific seats should be made early to avoid disappointment. Bookings and enquiries can also be taken by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They have prepared a Visual Story for children and young adults with sensory sensitivities. It is intended to help them prepare for a new experience and to become familiar with the new surroundings. Please click here to download it.
For Stomp patrons: please note that whilst strobe lighting is not used in the production, there is a section with Zippo lighters and metal bin lids that could trigger some photosensitive epileptics.
The Ambassadors Theatre is located in West Street. It is situated next to the St Martin's Theatre and opposite the Ivy Restaurant. There is a small step into the foyer, where you will find the box office on the left. There are 26 steps down to the stalls auditorium and five up to the dress circle. All staircases have handrails and steps are highlighted.
There is an infrared system working throughout the auditorium with both loop and conventional headsets. Headsets must be booked in advance and a deposit is required. Upon arrival, please speak to a member of staff to receive your headset. Please be aware that sections of Stomp can be very loud.
Guide dogs and hearing dogs are permitted in the auditorium and staff can dog sit by prior arrangement. Dogs will be looked after in the manager’s office. Please inform the box office at the time of booking.
Due to spatial restriction within the theatre, they are only able to accommodate wheelchair transfers. Patrons need to be able to transfer to one of their seats which have armrests. Their staff are always available to provide assistance and will store the wheelchair in the foyer during the performance, however they will not be permitted to lift patrons. There are 19 steps up from the foyer to the circle bar and 26 steps down to the stalls bar. Drinks in plastic cups may be taken into the auditorium.
There is no adapted toilet. Female toilets are located both 19 steps down the stairs to the stalls, and also up 26 steps from the foyer. Male toilets are up a flight of 8 steps from the foyer, and 26 steps down on the stalls level.
Parking. The Q-Park Car Park in Newport Place offers a 50% discount to theatregoers on production of a properly validated parking ticket and theatre ticket. Tickets may be validated by the box office.
Location : Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London WC2H 9ND
Transport: Transport: Charing Cross (National Rail). Leicester Square (Piccadilly Line, Northern Line), Charing Cross (Northern Line, Bakerloo Line). London Buses routes 14, 19, 22, 24, 29, 38, 40 and 176 stop closeby.
Stage Door : 020 7395 5401
Tel: 020 7395 5405