The Harold Pinter Theatre, formerly the Comedy Theatre until 2011, is a West End theatre, and opened on Panton Street in the City of Westminster, on 15 October 1881, as the Royal Comedy Theatre. It was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months in painted (stucco) stone and brick. By 1884 it was known as just the Comedy Theatre. In the mid-1950s the theatre underwent major reconstruction and re-opened in December 1955; the auditorium remains essentially that of 1881, with three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies.
In 1883, the successful operetta Falka had its London première at the theatre, and in 1885, Erminie did the same. The theatre's reputation grew through the First World War when Charles Blake Cochran and André Charlot presented their famous revue shows. Famous actors who appeared here include Henry Daniell who played John Carlton in Secrets in September 1929.
From 1885 all the way through World War I, the theatre was one of the most influential of its kind. Hosting Charles Blake Cochran, the theatre was well known for revue shows at the time. For a brief period the theatre was completely shut down for a major renovation. This renovation would occur in the mid-1950s. Reopening in December of 1955, the theatre changed forever, but the auditorium remained virtually unchanged. This has allowed the theatre to be a timeless classic amongst visitors and would still be recognized by Verity due to the famous, three-tier balconies that are seen.
The theatre was notable for the role it played in overturning stage censorship by establishing the New Watergate Club in 1956, under producer Anthony Field. The Theatres Act 1843 was still in force and required scripts to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. Formation of the club allowed plays that had been banned due to language or subject matter to be performed under "club" conditions.
Plays produced in this way included the UK premières of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy and Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. The law was not revoked until 1968, but in the late 1950s there was a loosening of conditions in theatre censorship, the club was dissolved and Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise premièred to a public audience. The theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in June 1972.
On 7 September 2011 it was announced that the theatre's owner, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) would be renaming the Comedy Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre from Thursday 13 October 2011. Howard Panter, Joint Chief Executive and Creative Director of ATG, told the BBC: "The work of Pinter has become an integral part of the history of the Comedy Theatre. The renaming of one of our most successful West End theatres is a fitting tribute to a man who made such a mark on British theatre and who, over his 50-year career, became recognised as one of the most influential modern British dramatists."
The range of work at The Harold Pinter Theatre has been far reaching, from musical comedies to revival and experimental theatre and includes hugely successful shows such as Savages starring Paul Scofield in 1973 and The Rocky Horror Show making its West End debut in 1979. Alan Bennett has appeared with Patricia Routledge in his Talking Heads and Stockard Channing appeared in Six Degrees of Separation, which won best play at the 1993 Olivier Awards.
The Homecoming, No-man's Land, Moonlight, The Hothouse and The Caretaker have all been presented in recent years. Maureen Lipman has also graced The Harold Pinter Theatre stage starring in Alan Plater's highly acclaimed comedy, Peggy For You, but The Harold Pinter Theatre's two biggest successes must be The Caretaker starring Michael Gambon in 2000 and an eight week sell out of Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs in 1999, starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Denis Lawson, which smashed all box office records. More recently, Francesca Annis and Anthony Andrews have starred in Ibsen's Ghosts and 2004 saw the much lauded revival of RC Sherriff's Journey's End and a successful run of The Old Masters by Simon Gray, starring Edward Fox and Peter Bowles.
This production was directed by Harold Pinter. In January 2005, Kim Cattrall starred in Peter Hall's production of Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Brian Clark, followed by Tom Courtenay in Brian Friel's The Home Place and Joseph Fiennes and Francesca Annis starred in Epitaph for George Dillon by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton. The Playhouse has also played host to Steptoe and Son, Michael Frayn's Donkey's Years, the Rocky Horror Show, and most recently the hilarious high-flying comedy, Boeing-Boeing.
The Ambassador Theatre group know that communication is key. They want all their patrons to have a good experience while in their theatres, so they now have a visual tool for parents and companions to use with children and adults on the autistic spectrum and/or with Sensory and Communication difficulties.
They have been researching the benefits of using visual stories and would like to offer a visual story for your visit to The Harold Pinter Theatre. They know some of their patrons find social situations difficult and they understand that people are all unique. They are currently experiencing intermittent problems with their hearing enhancement system, please contact the venue directly ahead of your visit, or arrive at least 30 minutes prior to curtain.
The Harold Pinter Theatre Box Office and foyer are situated at street level. The Stalls seating is accessible down a flight of 23 steps. Their Dress Circle seating has the easier access, being on foyer level and can provide up to 4 wheelchair spaces per performance. Seats in front of these spaces can be moved forward to accommodate longer chairs and small scooters - please provide measurements of chairs and scooters at time of booking to enable the Box Office Staff to advise you correctly.
The Harold Pinter Theatre auditorium is equipped with a Sennheiser MobileConnect WiFi sound amplification system. MobileConnect uses WiFi to deliver superior quality audio to a smart device such as an iPod or iPhone, either through headphones or via a necklace for hearing aid users. Devices can be booked via the box office in advance, borrowed on the day, or alternatively patrons can download the Sennheiser MobileConnect app and use their own device.
Induction Loop Necklace. Suitable for persons wearing a hearing aid, the induction loop necklace is worn around the neck. Whilst wearing the necklace switch your hearing aid to the 'T' setting and the sound is amplified. Headset. Sound is amplified sound through headphones. Suitable for persons without a hearing aid.
Guide, hearing and other working dogs are welcome in all parts of the theatre.
Ladies and Gents toilets are located down 23 steps from the foyer to Stalls level, up 23 steps from the foyer to Royal Circle and up 49 steps from foyer to Balcony level. Their Royal Retiring Room toilet is located 6 steps down from foyer level for patrons who are able to manage some steps. There is one handrail. Alternatively, for patrons with limited mobility, there is an access toilet located in the main foyer.
The Moonlight Bar. Open at 6pm every night, this luxury bar offers cocktails, premium wine selections and a relaxing setting to prepare you for your night at the theatre.
Parking: Q-Park currently have an offer running at most West End theatres for a 50% discount on parking when attending a show. The nearest Q-Park to the Harold Pinter Theatre is Q-Park Trafalgar, Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS. Alternatively Q-Park Chinatown, and Q-Park Soho are also only a short walk from the venue. Please bring the parking ticket to the Box Office where we will be able to stamp the ticket for a discount.
Location : Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, London, SW1Y 4DN
Access Line : 0800 912 6971
Tel: 0844 871 7622