The Cambridge Theatre is a West End theatre, on a corner site in Earlham Street facing Seven Dials, in the London Borough of Camden, built in 1929–30 for Bertie Meyer on an "irregular triangular site".
It was designed by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie; interior partly by Serge Chermayeff, with interior bronze friezes by sculptor Anthony Gibbons Grinling. The theatre is built in steel and concrete and is notable for its elegant and clean lines of design. The theatre was refurbished in 1950—the original gold and silver décor was painted over in red, and candelabras and chandeliers were added. In 1987, to restore the original décor, the theatre was once again refurbished, this time by Carl Toms. The theatre has a circular entrance foyer, with Grinling's bronze frieze depicting nude figures in exercise poses, the theme continues into the main foyer, with dancing nudes, marble pilaster up lighters and concealed lighting.
English Heritage notes: "the Cambridge Theatre is a rare, complete and early example of a London theatre adopting the moderne, expressionist style pioneered in Germany during the 1920s. It marked a conscious reaction to the design excesses of the music hall and contemporary cinemas. Theatres looked for a new style appropriate to the greater sophistication of their entertainment and found it in the Germanic moderne forms of simple shapes enlivened by concealed lighting, shiny steelwork and touches of bright colour; this was not taken up by cinema designers until 1935." The theatre was Grade II listed in January 1999.
The Cambridge is one of the youngest and most attractive theatres in the West End. The theatre opened on 4 September 1930, built by its first manager B A Meyer, to designs by architects Wimperis Simpson and Guthrie. Constructed by Gee Walker and Slater Ltd, the interior decoration was by Serge Chemayeff of Waring and Gillow. The first production was André Charlot’s revue Masquerade with Beatrice Lillie, followed by Charles Laughton in the Edgar Wallace thriller On the Spot.
The size of the auditorium means that The Cambridge Theatre operates most successfully as a musical house but is intimate enough for plays too. Some of the most notable dramas include George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House (1943) starring Edith Evans, Robert Donat, Ursula Jeans and, making her stage debut, Deborah Kerr, William Douglas Home’s The Reluctant Debutante (1955-1956) and Billy Liar (1960 -1962) by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall.
Other dramatic productions, generally with star casts, included Margaret Lockwood in Signpost to Murder (1962), Patrick Wymark in John Mortimer’s play The Judge (1967), a season by the National Theatre Company included Hedda Gabler and Cyrano de Bergerac (1970), Ingrid Bergman in Captain Brassbound’s Conversion (1971), Ralph Richardson in John Osborne’s West of Suez (1971), Ian McKellen as Hamlet (1971), Janet Suzman in The Three Sisters (1976), Nyree Dawn Porter in Anastasia. (1976), The Last of Mrs Cheyney starred Joan Collins (1980) and Peter O’Toole in Shaw’s Man and Superman (1980).
Successful revues at The Cambridge include a revival of 1066 and All That (1937), Cecil Landau’s revue Sauce Tartare (1949) and its sequel Sauce Piquant, (1950) in which Audrey Hepburn was a member of the chorus, Behind the Fridge (1972) with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Derren Brown in Something Wicked this Way Comes (2005) and the Motown musical Dancing in the Streets (2005).
Productions of Operetta have included A Night in Venice (1944) by Johann Strauss, Lizbeth Webb as The Merry Widow (1963), John Hanson in Bernard Delfont and Emile Littler’s revival of The Desert Song (1968), Michael Denison played Pooh Bah with an otherwise all black cast in The Black Mikado (1975), and the New D’Oyly Carte Company was launched with productions of Iolanthe and The Yeoman of the Guard (1988).
Peter PanVarious versions of Peter Pan have enjoyed seasons at the theatre with Glynis Johns as the boy who won’t grow up in J. M Barrie’s play (1943), Lulu flying around George Cole’s Captain Hook in the American musical version of the story (1987) and Ron Moody and Nicola Stapleton in Peter Pan – The British Musical (1994).
Musicals to appear at the Cambridge more than once include two successful runs of Fame (1995 and 2001) and Kander and Ebb’s Chicago. The original London production of Chicago (1977) played here and the record breaking revival transferred from the Adelphi theatre in 2006 playing for over five years.
Other American musicals include the New Orleans musical One Mo’ Time (1981) starring Vernel Bagneris and a three year run of Grease (1996) having transferred from the Dominion. The majority of the musicals to play here have been home grown and met with varying degrees of success including Budgie – The Musical (1988), Sherlock Holmes – The Musical (1989), Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Beautiful Game (2000) and Our House (2002) the Madness musical.
The first musical play at The Cambridge was Kong (1931) with Oscar Asche and Ursula Jeans which was swiftly followed by Phyllis Neilson-Terry and Matheson Lang in Elizabeth of England (1931). In the 1960s the building was home to Harold Fielding’s enormously successful production of Half a Sixpence (1963) starring Tommy Steele and Bruce Forsyth played no fewer than eight roles opposite Avril Angers in the Neil Simon musical Little Me (1964).
For three years The Cambridge was home to Bob Carlton’s Olivier Award-winning Return to the Forbidden Planet (1989) and the National Theatre transferred the controversial but highly successful production of Jerry Springer – The Opera (2003). Today the West End transfer of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical (2011) is playing to packed houses.
Tom Arnold and Prince Littler took control of The Cambridge Theatre in 1950 and the interior decoration scheme was renewed. For many years the theatre was under the management of Emile Littler. The Cambridge Theatre was taken over by Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd in 1986, after a brief closure following a disastrous attempt to turn the building into a permanent venue for magic shows called The Magic Castle of Seven Dials and the interior was completely restored to its original glory under the supervision of Carl Toms. In 2000 The Cambridge became a Really Useful Theatre when Lord Lloyd-Webber and Bridgepoint Capital purchased Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd. Since December 2005 the Cambridge Theatre has been owned 100% by The Really Useful Group Limited.
Bookings for disabled patrons of the Cambridge Theatre are handled by the Access Team at See Tickets: Telephone: 020 7087 7966; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Access into the Cambridge Theatre: No steps to the foyer through 2 sets of double swing doors. Box office counter on right. Staircases between levels have 2 handrails and steps are highlighted. 5 steps down from the main foyer to the Stalls, 31 up to the back of the Royal Circle (2 steps between rows). Over 60 steps up to the Upper Circle. Theatre opens 45 minutes before the performance.
For Wheelchair Users: Please contact the Theatre Manager on arrival. Entrance to the foyer through 2 sets of double swing doors. Entrance into the Stalls corridor through the third double EXIT door on Earlham Street. From here there is a slight slope down into the stalls, to 2 spaces for wheelchair users at N1 and N34. Transfer seats for up to 4 wheelchair users and 2 scooter users. The wheelchairs and scooters can be stored and will be retrieved by an usher.
Disabled toilets : Adapted toilet in the Stalls corridor.
Women’s and men’s toilets are at the back of the Stalls. At the Royal Circle, the men’s is level from the bar and the women’s is up 3 steps.
Aisle seats, seats J1 and J8 and Box A (3 steps up) have the most leg room. Drinks may be brought to disabled customers in the auditorium. Stalls bar is down 22 steps. Royal Circle bar is 31 steps from the foyer, another bar is in the Upper Circle. Induction loop: Infra-red system with 8 headsets. Induction loop at the Box Office. Headsets available in foyer.
Parking. NCP Shelton Street. Meters in Earlham Street (11 spaces) and Mercer Street (2 spaces). Access dogs are allowed inside the auditorium. Staff can also dog-sit for four dogs per performance in the Manager’s office.
Location : Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London WC2H 9HU
Access Line : 020 7087 7966
Tel: 020 7087 7745