The Fortune Theatre is a 432-seat West End theatre on Russell Street, near Covent Garden, in the City of Westminster, not to be confused with the Elizabethan public playhouse on the northern edge of London, built in 1600 by Philip Henslowe to compete with the newly constructed Globe Theatre. Named after the goddess of fortune, whose statue stood over the front doorway, the Fortune resembled the Globe except that it was square and its timbers remained unpainted.
The site was acquired by author, playwright and impresario Laurence Cowen, and had previously been the location of the old Albion Tavern, a public house that was frequented by Georgian and Victorian actors. The theatre is situated next to Crown Court Church, and dwarfed by the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on the opposite side of the road.
Cowen commissioned architect Ernest Schaufelberg to design the theatre in an Italianate style. Constructed from 1922 to 1924, it was the first theatre to be built in London after the end of the First World War. One of the first buildings in London to experiment with concrete, its façade is principally made of bush hammered concrete, with brick piers supporting the roof. Since the demolition of the original Wembley Stadium, the theatre is now the oldest remaining public building designed wholly using concrete as a textured and exposed façade. The theatre's famous figurine, Terpsichore (perched high above the entrance) was sculpted by M. H. Crichton of the Bromsgrove Guild, a noted company of artisans from Worcestershire. The theatre is entered through bronze double doors, and internally there is a foyer of grey and red marble, with a beaten copper ticket booth.
With 432 seats in the auditorium, it is believed to be the second smallest West End theatre. It was refurbished in 1960, and Grade II listed by English Heritage in May 1994.
The theatre opened, as the Fortune Thriller Theatre on 8 August 1924, with Sinners by Lawrence Cowen. During the Second World War, the theatre hosted performances by ENSA, entertainers drawn from the armed forces. Since the war, the theatre has been a receiving house, with actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Dirk Bogarde and Maureen Lipman appearing. The Fortune also hosted shows from Flanders and Swann and Beyond the Fringe. Nunsense played at the theatre in 1987.
Since 1989 the theatre has hosted the long running play The Woman in Black, which was adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the book of the same name by Susan Hill. A celebration was held in 2001 to mark the 5,000th performance. From 9 to 13 September 2008, the show was performed in Japanese by Takaya Kamikaya and Haruhito Saito, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the UK and Japan.
The theatre was also used to record the Lily Savage video "Paying the Rent" in 1993, which was later broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK in 1996.
Adapted from 1983 Susan Hill’s thriller fiction novel of the same name, The Woman in Black play was first adopted into a theatric performance by Stephen Mallatratt and was staged in Scarborough, UK in 1987. After receiving commercial and critical acclaim the show moved to the Fortune Theater in London's West End in 1989 where it still runs today. It is the second longest running play in the history of the West End.
There are no steps into the foyer and the Box Office is on the right. There are 21 steps down to the stalls. 7 steps up to the Dress Circle and 40 steps up to the Upper Circle. All stairwells have handrails. The auditorium is open 30 mins before the performance.
Wheelchair transfers - there are 7 steps up to the back of the Dress Circle. Dress F6-7 are the easiest seats to transfer to being level with the back of the auditorium.
Non-Transfer Patrons - Dress F16-17 can be removed to accommodate patrons who cannot transfer. A wheelchair lift is accessible by the side fire exit. When customers arrive they will be assisted by a front of house member who will guide them around to the side entrance and the lift. It can only accommodate standard size wheelchairs not scooters or larger electric wheelchairs. This lift is also available for patrons who wish to transfer to a seat but cannot manage the 7 steps up to the dress circle. Box A is only accessible to unaided wheelchair transfers through the side fire exit. Wheelchairs and scooters will be stored in a safe place.
The Fortune Theatre is equipped with a Sennheiser infra-red sound amplification system, available in all areas of the auditorium. To access the infra-red systems please request receiving equipment from the Box Office situated in the main foyer. There are two devices available: 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. The necklace has an adjustable volume control. Headset This device amplifies sound through earpieces similar to regular headphones. Suitable for persons without a hearing aid.
Guide dogs are not permitted inside the auditorium due to loud sound effects in the show. Staff are happy to look after guide dogs during the performance. There are ladies on all levels and gents in the stalls and upper level. The toilet next to Box A is an access toilet and can be accessed via the side fire exit.
Fortune 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 Access Champion Steve Durham to request the Visual Story.
Location : Fortune Theatre, Russell Street, London WC2B 5HH
Transport: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line) 4 minutes. London Buses routes : 24, 29 or 176 stop close by.
Access Line : 0800 912 6971
Tel: 0844 871 7627