The Duke of York's Theatre is a West End Theatre in St Martin's Lane, in the City of Westminster, London. It was built for Frank Wyatt and his wife, Violet Melnotte, who retained ownership of the theatre until her death in 1935. It opened on 10 September 1892 as the Trafalgar Square Theatre, with Wedding Eve. The theatre, designed by architect Walter Emden became known as the Trafalgar Theatre in 1894 and the following year became the Duke of York's to honour the future King George V.
The Duke of York's Theatre, which was the first to be built on St. Martin's Lane, backs onto the Garrick Theatre in Charing Cross Road, and was designed by the Theatre Architect Walter Emden. The Theatre was constructed by Frank Kirk and built for Frank Wyatt and his wife Violet Melnotte, Violet would later become the first proprietor of the Duke of York's Theatre in Brighton in 1910.
The Theatre's auditorium was constructed on three levels, stalls, dress circle, and upper circle or gallery, with several boxes on all three levels, and the Theatre was unique in that it had real fire places in its auditorium. The Theatre's name would be changed from The Trafalgar Square Theatre to The Duke Of York's Theatre when it reopened under the new Lesseeship of Cartwright and Dana, with a production of 'Her Advocate' on Thursday the 26th of September 1895.
Just prior to the Theatre's original opening as the Trafalgar Square Theatre the ERA printed a review of the building in its 3rd of September 1892 issue saying:- 'The new Theatre is pretty and unpretentious, the general effect being created by the judicious use of cream and gold and yellow tints, the back of the boxes being of a warm russet hue. The corridors are ornamented with coloured portraits of well-known actresses, and the decorations generally are remarkably chaste and refined. The stalls and dress-circle will be entered from St Martin's Lane.
On the upper-circle tier are a large and ornamental vestibule and a pleasant saloon, with a balcony facing the roadway. The pit entrance is on the north side, and the entrance to the large gallery on the south side. The theatre is completely isolated, and from each of its four sections an extra exit has been made. It will be lighted by electricity, but in case of need gas will be available. The dressing rooms are in a detached building, connected to the theatre by a short, covered iron bridge; and a broad stone staircase leads from the stage to the open air.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 3rd September 1892.
A Report on the specifications of the proposed Theatre, 8th December 1890.
NEW THEATRE. ST MARTIN'S LANE W.C. for Miss Violet Melnotte (Mrs Wyatt). This theatre will be erected on the site of Nos 103, 104, 105 & 106 St Martin's Lane and will be completely isolated. The theatre will be of fireproof construction similar to Terry's, the Court, and the Garrick theatres with the exception of the stage roof which will be of wood with a large lantern light in the middle, as it is understood to be the desire of the Theatres Committee it should be of wood but it can be if preferred fireproof.
The dressing rooms will be erected in an entirely separate block the stage being approached by means of a subway and the flies by a passage formed of corrugated iron both being cut off from the stage by iron doors. The front will be composed of Grimshill stone and brick with Portland Stone cornices copings weatherings etc. the sides and the Dressing room fronts being of picked stock bricks.
The theatre will consist of four tiers:- Pit Dress Circle, Upper Circle, and Gallery and is entered from St Martin's Lane through a Vestibule with a large Entrance Hall on the Ground level the Dress Circle being entered from each-side as are also the approaches to the Stalls. On the north side of Entrance Hall are placed the stairs leading to the Upper Circle and Saloon which opens on to a Balcony extending over the centre portion of the front.
The Gallery entrance is placed on the S.E. and the Pit on the N.E. corners of the building. There are two separate exits to the Stalls, Upper Circle, Pit and Gallery the Dress Circle having besides the two side exits into the Main Entrance two entirely separate exits. The stage is also provided with a separate exit. The exit accommodation is in excess of that required by the regulations of the County Council.
On each level retiring rooms are provided and the sanitary arrangements will be that of the best description all drains being thoroughly cut off from the building and ventilated and the drains from all W.Cs, Urinals, Lavatories, and Rain water pipes being laid with a good fall to the junction with main sewer.
Over the front portion of the building rooms are provided for the management. All doors will be made to open outwards and all exit doors fitted with automatic locks. The openings in the proscenium wall will be shut off by iron doors tilted to close of themselves. The stage and flies will be of wood the mezzanine of concrete. The stairs from the stage to the mezzanine will be of stone and iron. All rooms off the stage and mezzanine will be shut off by iron doors. The boiler house will be shut off from the stage by solid brick walls and will be entered from a passage from the dressing room stairs and shut off by an iron door. The dressing rooms will be entirely fireproof the floors being of iron and concrete covered with wood. The sanitary arrangements of the dressing room will be of the best description and as before described being properly trapped and ventilated.
The stage will be dominated with sprinklers on the non-automatic system and hydrants are also provided on the stage and flies. The theatre will have a thorough system of hydrants throughout the hydrants being let into the walls so as not to project into the corridors. The whole of the steel construction throughout the theatre will be protected by wire and plaster. The staircases will all be of Metallic patent concrete.
All woodwork throughout the building will be coated with fireproof paint. The heating will be by means of hot water on the low pressure system. The house will be lighted throughout by electricity. The corridor round the Dress Circle will be constructed so as to slope and by this means the necessity of steps to each, row of seats is avoided. The roof of the stage will be fitted with a large lantern light glazed on top and the sides fitted with fixed louvres with a large exhaust in the centre besides which there are two further exhausts provided. The auditorium will have several self acting exhausts in the roof and round the exhaust in the centre of the dome the roof will be trimmed and the top portion raised and the fibrous plaster of the inner dome perforated so as to allow the air to escape. The space below the ground will be ventilated by shafts in the walls.
MATERIALS - The front in St Martin's Lane will be of Grimshill stone and bricks with Portland stone cornices copings, weatherings &c. The sides and dressing room fronts will be of brick. All brickwork will be executed in mortar composed of blue lias lime and sharp washed sand mixed in the proportion of 3 to l. All concrete in the foundations to be of Portland cement and clean gravel mixed in the proportion of 4 to 1. The concrete of the circles to be composed of coke breeze and cement mixed in the proportion of 3 to 1 and covered on the top with patent metallic concrete composed of the slag of iron cement and sand. The whole of the floors will be constructed in steel filled in with concrete in cement and overlaid with metallic patent concrete and the steel work will be protected on the underside by plaster on wire.
The staircases in the interior will be of patent metallic concrete. The roof will be of steel filled in with concrete and covered with patent metallic concrete and on the underside the steel will be protected by plaster on wire and the whole of the ornamental parts will be of fibrous plaster. The floors will have a cement surface or where ornamental mosaic and tiles laid directly on the concrete and where covered with wood it will be laid directly on the concrete. The Pit floor will be of wood blocks laid on the concrete.
ACCOMMODATION - Stalls 155 persons, Dress Circle 115, Upper Circle 140, Pit 400, Gallery 400, 14 Private Boxes 56 (4 persons in each). Total Accommodation 1,266 persons.
This document was rescued, along with many others, from skips at the GLC and Westminster Council, by Dave Spink, and then kindly sent in for inclusion here by Roger Fox.
Just two years later in 1897 Charles Frohman, the American Theatrical Manager, took over the running of the Theatre and put on a some very successful productions using American Actors which he exchanged for British ones performing there. The Duke Of York's was damaged in the Second World War and closed towards the end of 1940, not reopening again until May of 1943 with a play called 'Shaddow and Substance'.
One of the earliest musical comedies, Go-Bang, was a success at the theatre in 1894. In 1900, Jerome K. Jerome's Miss Hobbs was staged as well as David Belasco's Madame Butterfly, which was seen by Puccini, who later turned it into the famous opera. This was also the theatre where J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up debuted on 27 December 1904. Many famous British actors have appeared here, including Basil Rathbone, who played Alfred de Musset in Madame Sand in June 1920, returning in November 1932 as the Unknown Gentleman in Tonight or Never.
The theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in September 1960. In the late 1970s the freehold of the theatre was purchased by Capital Radio and it closed in 1979 for refurbishment. It reopened in February 1980 and the first production under the patronage of Capital Radio was Rose, starring Glenda Jackson. In 1991 comedian Pat Condell performed sketches at the theatre which were later released onto DVD.
The Ambassador Theatre Group bought the theatre in 1992; this coincided with the successful Royal Court production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden. A host of successes followed including the 21st anniversary performance of Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show and the Royal Court Classics Season in 1995. The theatre is the London headquarters of the Ambassador Theatre Group, as well as the producing offices of their subsidiary Sonia Friedman Productions, whose revival of In Celebration starring Hollywood leading man Orlando Bloom played until 15 September 2007. The Theatre today is one of the West End's most successful playhouses and is rarely dark.
Ink (19 September 2017 – 6 January 2018) by James Graham, starring Bertie Carvel and Richard Coyle. Mary Stuart (25 January 2018 – 31 March 2018) by Friedrich Schiller, starring Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams. The Moderate Soprano (12 April 2018 – 30 June 2018) by David Hare, starring Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll.
The Duke of York’s Theatre entrance is on street level where the box office, cloakroom, main foyer area and access toilet are located. The seating design incorporates two wheelchair spaces in the Royal Circle (level access), with an accompanying companion seat. Alternatively, the patron can transfer into a designated transfer seat in the Royal Circle (level access), while the wheelchair remains in the foyer with front of house staff. Please note that when sitting in the wheelchair spaces there is a restricted view but when using a seat transfer there is a clear view to the stage. Due to the listed design of the theatre, the auditorium can only accommodate a maximum of two wheelchairs per performance.
Wheelchair Space Measurements. Royal Circle Right (when looking at the stage): 85.5cm / 33 ¾ inches wide. Royal Circle Left (when looking at the stage): 91cm / 35 ¾ inches wide.
The Duke of York’s Theatre has a sound amplification system called MobileConnect. MobileConnect is a new system from Sennheiser which operates on WiFi signal. You can use a venue device to connect to the signal or alternatively, download the MobileConnect app to your own android or apple device. This system can operate with a hearing aid if required. If you would like to use MobileConnect, please speak to a member of staff when you arrive at the theatre.
The Duke of York’s Theatre offers captioned performances in association with STAGETEXT. Captioning converts the spoken word into text that provides people with hearing loss access to live performance. In captioning, the words appear on a screen at the same time as they are sung or spoken. Captions also include sound effects and offstage noises. For more information visit www.stagetext.org. Captioned performance dates are announced once scheduled with each show.
A maximum of two guide dogs can be admitted per performance to patrons booking an aisle seat. If preferred, front of house staff can look after the guide dog in the foyer during the performance. The access toilet is to the right hand side of the main foyer area (level access), opposite the auditorium right entrance to the Royal Circle.
Meet the Duke of York’s Theatre Access Champions who can assist with any access queries you have. Paul Heelis: 020 7565 6485 - firstname.lastname@example.org and Cydney Folan: 020 7565 6510 - email@example.com . Duke of York's Theatre Visual Story: a visual resource to help prepare visitors for a new experience and to help them become familiar with new surroundings and what to expect. Please contact an Access Champion to request the Visual Story.
Location : Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4BG
Access Line : 0800 912 6971
Tel: 0844 871 7627