Palace Theatre Facade

Palace Theatre Facade

Palace Theatre  Interior

Palace Theatre Interior

 

The Palace Theatre is a West End theatre in the City of Westminster in London. Its red-brick facade dominates the west side of Cambridge Circus behind a small plaza near the intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. The Palace Theatre seats 1,400.

Commissioned by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte in the late 1880s, it was designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt. Carte intended it to be the home of English grand opera, much as his Savoy Theatre had been built as a home for English light opera, beginning with the Gilbert and Sullivan series. The foundation stone, laid by his wife Helen in 1888, can still be seen on the façade of the theatre, almost at ground level to the right of the entrance. The theatre's design was considered to be novel. The upper levels are supported by heavy steel cantilevers built into the back walls, removing the need for supporting pillars that impede the view of the stage. The tiers, corridors, staircases, landings are all constructed of concrete to reduce the risk and damage that might be done by fire.

The theatre opened as the "Royal English Opera House" in January 1891 with Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe. No expense was spared to make the production a success, including a double cast and "every imaginable effect of scenic splendour". It ran for 160 performances, but when Ivanhoe finally closed in July, Carte had no new work to replace it, and the opera house had to close. One opera is not enough to sustain an opera house venture. It was, as critic Herman Klein observed, "the strangest comingling of success and failure ever chronicled in the history of British lyric enterprise!" Sir Henry Wood, who had been répétiteur for the production, recalled in his autobiography that "[if] Carte had had a repertory of six operas instead of only one, I believe he would have established English opera in London for all time. Towards the end of the run of Ivanhoe I was already preparing the Flying Dutchman with Eugène Oudin in the name part. He would have been superb. However, plans were altered and the Dutchman was shelved."

The theatre re-opened in November 1891, with André Messager's La Basoche (with David Bispham in his first London stage performance) at first alternating in repertory with Ivanhoe, and then La Basoche alone, closing in January 1892. Carte had no other works ready, and so he leased the theatre to Sarah Bernhardt for a season and sold the opera house within a year at a loss. It was then converted by Walter Emden into a grand music hall and renamed the Palace Theatre of Varieties, managed by Charles Morton, known as the 'Father of Music Halls', who made it into a successful enterprise.

Denied permission by the London County Council to construct the promenade, which was such a popular feature of adult entertainment at the Empire and Alhambra theatres, the Palace compensated by featuring apparently nude women in tableaux vivants, though the concerned LCC hastened to reassure patrons that the girls who featured in these displays were actually wearing flesh toned body stockings and were not naked.

In March 1897, the theatre began to screen films from the American Biograph Company as part of its programme of entertainment, these films pioneered the 70 mm format which helped give an exceptionally large and clear image filling the proscenium arch. The performances included early newsreels from around the world, many of them made by film pioneer William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, including film of the Anglo-Boer War (1900). The Palace continued to show films as part of its variety and musical programmes.

In 1904, Morton was succeeded by manager Alfred Butt, whose father Alfred Beyfus and associates had purchased the theatre. Butt introduced many innovations to the theatre, including dancers, such as Maud Allan (including her famous Salomé) and Anna Pavlova, and elegant pianist-singer Margaret Cooper. Oliver G Pike premièred his first film, In Birdland, at the theatre in August 1907. This was the first British wildlife film to be screened to a paying audience. On 26 February 1909, the general public first saw Kinemacolor in a programme of 21 short films shown at the Theatre.

The name of the theatre was finally changed to The Palace Theatre in 1911. Herman Finck was musical director at the theatre from 1900 until 1920, with whose orchestra he made many recordings. The theatre was famous not only for its orchestra, but also for the beautiful Palace Girls, for whom Finck composed many dances. In 1911, the Palace Girls performed a song and dance number, which was originally called Tonight but became very popular as a romantic instrumental piece, In The Shadows.

In 1912, the theatre hosted the first Royal Variety Performance in Britain, commanded by King George V, and produced by Butt. During the First World War, the theatre presented revues, and Maurice Chevalier became known to British audiences. After the war, the theatre was used mostly for films for a few years, but the Marx Brothers appeared at the theatre in 1922, performing selections from their Broadway shows.

On 11 March 1925, the musical comedy No, No, Nanette opened at the Palace Theatre starring Binnie Hale and George Grossmith, Jr. The run of 665 performances made it the third longest-running West End musical of the 1920s. Princess Charming ran for 362 performances beginning in 1926. The Palace Theatre was also the venue for Rodgers and Hart's The Girl Friend (1927) and Fred Astaire's final stage musical Gay Divorce (1933). In 1939–1940, Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert appeared at the theatre in Under Your Hat, a spy story co-written by Hulbert, with music and lyrics by Vivian Ellis.

Later musical theatre works that played with success at the theatre included Song of Norway, King's Rhapsody, Anything Goes, Flower Drum Song and Where's Charley?, among others. The Entertainer, starring Laurence Olivier, transferred to the theatre from the Royal Court Theatre in 1957. In the 1960s, The Sound of Music ran for 2,385 performances, from 1961, and Cabaret followed in 1968. The Danny La Rue revue Danny at the Palace played for two years from 1970.

Two more exceptional runs took place at The Palace during the last decades of the 20th century: Jesus Christ Superstar (3,358 performances from 1972 to 1980) and Les Misérables, which played at the theatre for nineteen years after moving from the Barbican Centre on 4 December 1985. The production moved to the Queen's Theatre on April 2004 to continue its record-setting run. In between, Song and Dance played from 1982 to 1984. In 1983, Andrew Lloyd Webber purchased the theatre for £1.3 million and began a series of renovations to the auditorium, including uncovering the famous marble and onyx panels lurking below a layer of paint. He restored the theatre's facade, later commenting: "I removed the huge neon sign that defaced the glorious terracotta exterior, much to the chagrin of West End producers who told me I had removed the greatest theatre advertising sight in London."

After Les Misérables left the theatre in 2004, Lloyd Webber refurbished and restored the auditorium and front of the house, removing the paint that covered the Italian marble. Lloyd Webber premiered his musical The Woman in White at the Palace later in 2004, which ran for 19 months. Monty Python's Spamalot opened in 2006 and ran until 2009. It was replaced by Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which played through 2011, and Singin' In The Rain played from 2012 to 2013, followed by The Commitments from 2013 to 2015.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play written by Jack Thorne based on an original story by Thorne, J. K. Rowling and John Tiffany, began previews at the theatre on 7 June 2016, Both parts opened officially on 30 July. The theatre was Grade II* listed by English Heritage in June 1960. It is one of the 40 theatres featured in the 2012 DVD documentary series Great West End Theatres, presented by Donald Sinden. In April 2012, Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group sold the building to Nimax Theatres (Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer). Nimax purchased the Apollo, Duchess, Garrick and Lyric Theatres from Really Useful in 2005.

The following text on the Palace Theatre is from the book 'Carriages at Eleven, The story of the Edwardian Theatre' by W Macqueen Pope 1947.

It was during the Edwardian Era that Shaftesbury Avenue became London's street of theatres. Up to then the Strand was the centre of theatreland. And, indeed, Shaftesbury Avenue, when the Edwardian days dawned, had only two theatres standing actually in it, the Lyric, built in 1888, and the (original) Shaftesbury, built in the same year, whilst the Palace, not actually facing into the Avenue, but into Cambridge Circus, went up in 1891.

The London Pavilion, abutting on the Avenue, faces Piccadilly Circus, and was a music hall anyway. So theatre history in the Avenue is new and has its roots in Edward's time. For during that time up went the Apollo, in 1901, the Globe, (now the Guilgud,) in 1906 and the Queen's in 1907. At the extreme northern end of the Avenue, the Prince's, now the (current) Shaftesbury, arose in 1911, almost at the end of the era.

Shaftesbury Avenue was a different place in those days. It was - for a main thoroughfare - very new and shiny. It had an air of gaiety and brightness, and no definite category. It was a mixture of flats, jewellers', dress-shops, pubs and theatres, mingled with offices mixed in for luck. But it housed the old Eccentric Club, before that gay mixture of the stage, bohemia and the racecourse moved into the more select quarter of St. James's.

In Edwardian days the Avenue had more pubs than it has now. There was the 'Prince Rupert,' on the corner of that thoroughfare, which perpetuates that noble cavalier leader of cavalry charges and forlorn hopes. The 'Prince Rupert' did a big trade with the actors, and was a very cheery place indeed, with a predominance of crystal in its decorations.Upstairs there was a curious bar, more like a club lounge than a public drinking place, which was called 'Fitz's Bar,' and was run by Aubrey Fitzgerald, a well-known actor himself.

This place was one of London's minor night-life sights, for the habitues were the remnants of the young men who, in the days of Oscar Wilde, had sported the Green Carnation. Both pub and bar have vanished to make room for a shop. And on the corner of Great Windmill Street and the Avenue was 'The Avenue Buffet,' now a bank. This was a great place for professionals to lunch at, and also to have snacks. In its later days it was controlled by a man called Moss Vernon, who had started as a costumier, made a lot of money and who had some very good racehorses.

On one occasion, during some hectic dress rehearsals, R. C. McCleery, the scenic artist, went there to meet a friend. The friend got there first and ordered Irish stew with apple pudding to follow. McCleery soon arrived. He was a curious character, who took his work very seriously, and who was always talking in a tone of nasal, grumbling, sad complaint-not that he was a dismal soul, quite the reverse. It was just his manner. Nobody could paint trees like he could. He asked what his pal was having. He decided on the same. "Here, miss," he said to the waitress. "Bring me some Irish stew and apple pudding, and as I'm in a hurry, bring 'em both together on the same plate. They all go down the same way in the end. May as well do so in the beginning." He got this strange mixture, and ate it with every sign of enjoyment, going back to his rehearsal like a giant refreshed.

The Palace, which was of Shaftesbury Avenue but not in it, had, in the days of Edward, achieved its true destiny. It was a place apart. Under Charles Morton it had ceased to be an unsuccessful Opera House, and had become a great house of Variety.

That veteran with the golden touch transformed its fortunes, as he had done at so many places. He it was who made it great. For the Palace was not a theatre, and it was not a music hall. It was exactly as it described itself - A Theatre of Varieties. The difference was subtle but distinct. Variety held the stage, but there was no trace of the roaring choruses, the noisy bonhomie of the ordinary music hall. Here white shirts and silk dresses filled the boxes, the stalls, and the dress circle. Here the carriages set down, and 'took up' at eleven. But although women, with their escorts of course, occupied many of the seats, it preserved a masculine atmosphere, as befitted a theatre of varieties. The air was blue with the smoke of good cigars. Champagne and whisky were the drinks in the bars - it even had a cigar bar at the back of the stalls, where good cigars were sold - for the Palace patrons knew a cigar and did not want inferior brands.

There was, under the staircase leading from the stalls to the lounge, a bar where champagne was the drink supplied, to the exclusion of all else. And the real, regular Palace patrons liked a Rover Ticket, which cost five shillings, but which took you wherever you deigned to go, but did not entitle you to a seat. As most of the habitues dropped into the building as they dropped into their club, would watch a special act or so, and then have recourse to the bar, seats did not bother them. They stood along that passage at the back of the stalls, either leaning against the golden rail at the back, or the partition which terminated the seats. Here you could see all the men about town, all the people who mattered in Edwardian bohemia.

Some went every night. You would always meet Louis Bauer there. He was a man who 'managed' artists, not an agent, he would inform you. He was a tall, imposing-looking man, with a slight foreign accent, who inevitably wore a tall hat, a morning coat, adorned with a large buttonhole, and who carried a malacca cane. It had to be several degrees below freezing with thick snow on the ground before he wore an overcoat, and when he did it was a very heavy ulster. He would go from the Palace to the Empire and back again. That was his evening. That was, for him, all that London contained. And he would drink champagne. If you were a particular friend of his, he would ask you to meet him at the Motor Club - at the corner of Whitcomb and Coventry Street - at eleven a.m. There he would regale you with a pint of the best champagne, and dry biscuits.

An astute man of business, who made several stars, that was what life meant to him. He asked no more. His only preoccupation outside of that was a collection of model owls, of which he had hundreds. This probably arose because he was a member of the Eccentric Club. He was a great figure around his own little corner in Edwardian days, and the Palace and the Empire were his spiritual homes.

Then there was Frank Otter. Here was a man of some standing, who had married into the Theatre. To see Frank far away from a bottle of Rum was to see a wonder. His genial face was the colour of a ripe Victoria plum. He had a curious voice, with slurring tones, but very characteristic. Nothing disturbed him. A bottle of champagne, a pal or two, and the worst of the blitz, even an atomic bomb, would not have made Frank Otter turn a hair. For those things, especially in that little understairs Palace bar, formed his world...

On one occasion in that sanctum where casual strangers were not at all welcome, he was chatting with some friends, when a little, pushing outsider butted in. Frank gazed at him in silent wonder but ignored his remarks and went on with the conversation. The man butted in again. Frank spoke to him. "Excuse me, sir," he said, 'this may be a public bar -- I believe it is. But this is a private conversation, as between gentlemen (he stressed this word with just the slightest emphasis), so kindly keep your conversation to yourself, if you don't mind." The man was silent, and Frank's group went on with their talk. But the chatty stranger could not resist it, he was listening. Once more Frank regarded him with pained surprise. "Are you a foreigner?" he asked. (He had a pretty hearty contempt for such things, in the good old Edwardian way.) The butter-in denied it indignantly. "Then you haven't that excuse. Now listen, there's a good chap. I don't know you, I don't want to know you. I'm speaking to my friends. So shut up, please, and don't butt in. Otherwise I'll get angry." Silenced again, the stupid man could not tear himself away. He went on listening. Something which was said got him going.

Ducking under the arm of one of the group, he took the centre of the floor. Otter, in the most matter-of-fact manner, seized his bottle of champagne off the bar and without even looking at him, or interrupting his speech, rapped the man over the head with it, who fell down, absolutely stunned. Frank then resumed the conversation where it had been so rudely interrupted as if nothing had happened, and the attendants removed the importunate man who had so rudely transgressed the Palace social law. That was the sort of thing which happened at the Palace. All done in the most gentlemanly-like manner.

Sometimes gentlemen got a little tipsy at the Palace, and in that condition they were not wanted. There was, at the back of the stalls, what was known as 'the drunks' door.' This was an exit leading to the street, which only opened outwards. It was covered with curtains. If a drunk got a little obstreperous, one of the efficient Palace attendants - and they were all most tactful attendants too - would edge the recalcitrant man to this door, and when he reached it, give him the slightest push, and he found himself out in the street, to his intense astonishment. Nor did he ever get in again.

D'Oyly Carte built the Palace, but Charles Morton gave it a soul. That grand old man died in 1904 and he was succeeded by Alfred Butt, who had left a big store to give Morton a hand in the accountancy side, which wasn't the 'Father of Music Halls' strongest point. Butt was a magician with figures, and the atmosphere got hold of him. He succeeded Morton as general manager and managing director, and he added even more glory to the Palace. It became the smartest of the smart. It was run magnificently. And Butt soon showed that he was as expert a showman as he was an accountant. He gave us variety in the Variety Theatre. There was always something new, something sensational. Not gaudily or highly-coloured sensation, but real novelty.

When he introduced Maud Allan to the Palace, it was a first-class sensation. Here was barefoot-barelegged-dancing, to classical music. Some held it to be mere sensationalism, some said it was a delicate new art form. The arguments filled the Palace, for everyone went to see. But it was Maud Allan's dance as 'Salome' which was the real tour-de-force of her offering.

In most exotically scanty oriental attire, to the sensuous waltz tune of Archibald Joyce, she depicted Salome dancing, with the head of John the Baptist, before Herod. This caused a real storm. Even those who were - or professed to be - shocked went along to see. She was the rage of London, and we felt the Victorian days were gone indeed. Butt followed this up with more barelegged dancing, even barer legs, and aristocratic legs at that, for they belonged to Lady Constance Stewart Richardson.

It was all art, of course, and classic art at that. If she did not cause so much uproar as Maud Allan, it was because she had no 'prop' head of a prophet to stir up public opinion. But she did cause something, for King Edward VII was annoyed that a member of such a family should thus appear in a place of public resort, even though it was the Palace! In those days there was still an aristocracy, there was still class distinction. Today nobody would care twopence about a titled dancer, they are used to them. All they would require would be for her to dance well. She did that.

Another of Butt's captures was Margaret Cooper, a very distinguished looking artist of great refinement who sang very charming songs at the piano, very well. She was first-rate. She swept languidly on to the stage, surveyed her audience with some hauteur, vouchsafed them the slightest movement of her upper lip by way of a smile, removed her long gloves very leisurely and put them on the piano. Removed her handsome and expensive furs very leisurely, and put them on the piano. Removed her many and flashing rings very leisurely-and put them on the piano. Then she sat down at the piano herself - and she charmed us all. There was a dispute between Miss Cooper and Alfred Butt which occasioned speeches and the ringing up and down of the curtain, but Butt won. He usually did.

The greatest of all novelties which Alfred Butt gave us - to earn our eternal gratitude - was Anna Pavlova. In one night she revolutionized our ideas of dancing. In one night she conquered London. She is a cherished legend today, a beloved one. Butt's finest epitaph would be that he gave us Anna Pavlova. No man could desire more. There was another sensation, too, when she slapped the face of her dancing partner when he dropped her. She did this in full view of the audience - and England rang with the news.

This partner was Michael Mordkin. He was a magnificent-looking man and a good enough dancer, but he was not in the Pavlova class. But then, who was? The applause and the cheers which greeted their dancing went to his head. He thought he earned as much of it as she. So he got troublesome, he got a swollen head. He complained of everything, of the way in which he was billed, of his dressing-room - he ran the whole gamut of theatrical temperament. On that eventful night, he may have dropped her on purpose, or he may not.

Anyway, it was he who got slapped and Anna who got the sympathy. Even when, after the curtain was lowered, he rushed on to the stage to 'say his piece' they blacked out on him and turned on the 'Bioscope,' with the orchestra going full blast, and all the audience saw was his excited figure bobbing about until he retired, hurt in every sense. But as he was in the habit of wearing a top hat, frock coat and brown boots, he got little sympathy from the Edwardians and he did not appear again. But who would have been cross with Pavlova in London?

Speaking about the orchestra brings in Herman Finck, who wielded the baton at the Palace for thirty years. He was the incarnation of the place; his orchestra was one of the best in the land and was not just part of the show, but an asset to it. When it played in the interval, the interval seemed too short. Finck made history at the Palace in many ways. His tune, 'In the Shadows,' to which the delectable Palace Girls (always one of the turns, and studiously copied to-day) did a skipping rope dance, was so much in the vein of the period that it went all over the world, even to China.

For Finck was not only a fine conductor but a first-class composer. Though today he is in the shadows himself that tune to which he gave the name still lives in the sun of popularity. He gave us also 'Melodious Memories' - a potpourri of popuar airs, ranging from classics and grand opera to music hall songs, and thereby started a fashion in musical 'switches.' The audience of the Palace, even those of the Rovers, deserted the bars to listen to it and try and name the melodies before he switched to the next. It was a masterpiece. He was as much at home conducting for performing animals as he was for Pavlova or Maud Allan, or a symphony orchestra.

Once he caught the wheel which had come off a trick cyclist's machine as it was dashing straight at him and the audience, and returned it to the frightened man who had lost it, without missing a beat. For you could not flurry Herman in that respect. In addition to all this, Finck was one of the wittiest men in London. He was of middle height, inclined to stoutness, dark, with luxuriant dark hair parted in the middle, full in the face, and had a dark moustache and a beaky nose. He was never at a loss for a joke. And his jokes always had point. As when he received a wire from a well-known borrower which read, 'Send five pounds immediate.' Finck's reply was, 'Send ten pounds urgent.' He was not troubled again. Herman Finck was a man-about-town, a musician, a wit and a good friend. He himself liked being a man-about-town best. But he was to play that `Melodious Memories' of his on a very important occasion, no less than the first (and only) Royal Command performance that has ever been given by the Variety profession.

For Music Hall was at its very zenith. It deserved Royal recognition which it had never achieved. King Edward had often commanded its stars to appear before him privately at Sandringham and elsewhere, but never had Royalty, in state, graced a variety show. King George V did this gracious thing, and Music Hall thrilled with pride. The Palace - where more suitable? - was chosen as the venue, and the performance took place on 1st July 1912.

This event had nearly been given outside London, for Sir Edward Moss, the boss of Moss Empires, in whom the arrangements were vested, decided to hold it at the Empire, Edinburgh, whilst the Court was in Scotland. But that place was burned down and London got the chance. There was incredible difficulty over the selection of the artists, and a revolution was threatened with all the proposed 'rejects' in a bill at a rival house called 'The Popular Demand Performance.' But by dint of hard work and diplomacy, things were smoothed out. Those who could not give a solo turn, by reason of time, all appeared in a scene, staged as a finale, called 'Variety's Garden Party' and joined in singing the National Anthem, led by Harry Claff in his shining armour as 'The White Knight.'

The Palace was transformed into a bower of lovely blooms, things were done in the most lavish manner. Indeed, Their Majesties were almost buried in flowers. The King and Queen brought the Grand Duchess George of Russia and Princess Victoria with them. The whole theatre cheered them, and it was one of those occasions which will never come again,.' For London in those days could do things well and this was one of the occasions when no pains or expense were spared. Austerity was undreamed of, and every attempt was made, and made successfully, to make this as a great occasion. Although the place glittered and blazed, the same cannot be said of the behaviour of the audience. Nearly everyone was overcome, 'acts' included. Things had been timed to the fraction of a second, everyone was on edge. Also points had to be watched, for nothing the slightest bit vulgar must creep in to shock the Royal ears. So most of the performers were not really at ease. The audience, largely composed of music hall folks and their supporters, were simply bursting with pride, dressed in their best, and on their best behaviour, they were determined to show the world that they knew how to behave as well as the smartest West End playgoer who ordered carriages at eleven.

To them, also, the Royal Box and the behaviour of its occupants was of more interest than the traffic on the stage. The consequence was an audience which, after its burst of loyal enthusiasm to welcome the King and Queen, sat frigid and rather reserved, indulging in only polite applause, for fear of seeming ostentatious and free-and-easy. Yet the whole thing was electrical and unforgettable. But there was one incident which marked the times as could nothing else. When Vesta Tilley took the stage, dressed, as always, as a man - and beautifully tailored, too - the Royal ladies averted their eyes, and studied their programmes. A woman in trousers was shocking! It was not the thing upon which Royalty could gaze. As we used to say -"not in these trousers." Yet that Queen was our own Mary, who now chats with land girls, factory workers, all dressed in male attire, without the slightest qualm and with every appearance of pleasure. Far, far away are those Edwardian and early Georgian days now. The two wars have made a gap of centuries.

Alfred Butt the showman sandwiched the novelties at the Palace with regular favourites. One of the greatest of these - in every sense of the word - was Barclay Gammon. A very big man in evening dress, he sat at a piano and sang to us, and the Palace could never have enough of him. He was there, with very slight absences, for years.

There were many Palace personalities besides; Blake, its ferocious stage door keeper, who has become a theatrical legend. Blake had many 'hates,' women and education being the greatest of them. Telephone girls were anathema. He carried on an eternal feud also with the succession of call boys, for whom he laid in wait, ambushed, harassed, but seldom caught. He thought little of the lovely chorus girls whom he saw daily. They, you see, were women. But one night a chorus girl did something he had never succeeded in doing. She was revenged on the call boy. This young lady was in the habit of looking on the wine when red, and its effect on her was an access of regal dignity. She did not like the call boy of that time. Once she arrived with the bearing and mien of an archduchess. Her companion knew she was 'tight,' but one girl protects another in the theatre.

The call boy knew she was 'tight' and told her so. When she was in her dressing-room, preparing for the opening of the show, his insult penetrated to her bemused brain. She swore revenge. Although without one particle of clothing upon her, she went right down the stairs to the stage door. Completely nude, she caught the call boy, aghast with wonder, and she bashed his head three times, very resoundingly, against the iron door leading to the stage. Then, satisfied, she proceeded back to her room, her dignity in no way abated but slightly humanized by a contented smile on her placid face. Even Blake did not interfere. The manager was sent for but he had a sense of humour. He reproved and 'suspended' the unclothed lady for a week. She never did it again. That never happens in the Theatre today - and perhaps it is a pity.

Blake took a holiday once a year. Arrayed in a complete set of new clothes, even down to socks and vest and pants, new hat, new gloves, he would get on a bus on the Sunday morning, and ride to its destination. From there he would proceed outwards for a week by whatever transport was available, turning on the following Sunday and arriving back on the following Sunday night, ready to report as usual on the Monday. North, east, south, west, he went on these mysterious journeys and would never say where he had been or discuss them. It was a curious but perhaps a satisfying form of vacation of which he never tired.

Arthur Wimperis, a great wit and. a man who loved country life, wrote many songs and sketches - and in later days, revues - for the Palace. And there, too, you would see Comelli, the great costume designer; Tom Reynolds, the producer - a truly delightful man with sometimes a hot Irish temper but a fund of humour and a heart of gold. He would quarrel with you, and if you knew him you would do nothing about it. For one day the phone would ring and Tom would take up the conversation where it had left off and you knew it was all right. Tom did grand work at the Palace, and still remains his humorous, witty self.

When revue came to the Palace in 1914, Finck gave us another memorable song, called 'Gilbert the Filbert,' which popularized the word Knut. It was the swan-song of Edwardianism, if we had only known, for the war came and Basil Hallam, the perfect knut, who sang the song, died on active service. In that same revue, The Passing Show, Butt gave us Elsie Janis - and her mother - as remarkable a couple as ever existed. Elsie was one of the greatest stars of all time, but she appeared only when our world was changing and her story is not for here.

And once as a stop-gap, Butt engaged a little concert party which shone so brightly that in a London plunged in a real peasoup fog of the old-fashioned variety, they packed the Palace. For they were 'The Follies.' And their great leader, Pelissier, was to crack a great gag in the auditorium one afternoon some time later. For a film had been made of Sir Herbert Tree's great production of 'Henry the Eighth' and a trial show was given at the Palace (where Sir Herbert had appeared on one occasion). The profession were invited and attended in strength, Pelissier amongst them. The film began to unwind its majestic self on the screen. It was, of course, a silent picture - no talkies then. All the great members of His Majesty's company stalked in shadow on the screen. Then Sir Herbert himself, as Cardinal Wolsey, swept on majestically. You saw his eyes move, you saw his gestures, you saw his mouth opening and shutting, but the music of Shakespeare was not there. But it was Harry Pelissier's great chance. "Speak up," he shouted-and there was a burst of Homeric laughter.

If there has been a long stop at the Palace, it is because it was so much the Edwardian place of amusement of the lighter kind, so typical of its day, so much a mixture of wealth and modest means, each getting plenty of fun, for no great disbursement. It was not to be found elsewhere, this particular brand of evening's enjoyment, yet it was truly Edwardian in its richness, its flavour, its air of complete security.

It was the other end of the same pole which balanced the local music halls, then in great number, and midway hung the Oxford, the Tivoli and the London Pavilion. The London Hippodrome was still a bit of a hybrid. It had begun as a circus, it had altered its policy, and like the Palace, when the Edwardian days were over, it was to change again. But the Palace, with its innumerable window boxes aglow with flowers, its terracotta and its red, its gleaming glass verandah beneath which stepped the people from their carriages, their cars, and beneath which entered the bohemians and the men-about-town, was a bright spot of those days.

Venue Access Information. Tel: 0330 333 4815 ; Email: access@nimaxtheatres.com .

Wheelchair user access is located in the Stalls. Access is through a side exit door on Shaftesbury Avenue. Please make yourself known to the staff at the front doors or Box Office for access from 45 minutes before the show. There is one 3cm step and a slight incline to the Stalls. Stalls Q3, Q28, V26 and V27 can be removed to provide wheelchair user spaces. All stalls aisle seats are suitable for those wishing to transfer from their wheelchairs

There is a fully adapted unisex toilet at the rear of the Stalls. There are Ladies and Gentlemen’s toilets on all levels. The theatre bars are located on all levels. There is no level access to the bars for wheelchair users; a member of the theatre staff will offer assistance purchasing beverages on behalf of customers. Programmes and Ice Creams are available in the main foyer and auditorium.

The theatre is fitted with a Williams Sound hearing assistance system. Headsets are available on a first come first served basis. The box office is fitted with an induction loop to assist hearing aid users when booking. For information about disabled parking in Westminster please visit www.parkingforbluebadges.com or visit the Q-Park website www.q-park.co.uk/theatreland .

Guide dogs and hearing dogs are welcome. For comfort they recommend purchasing a seat on the end of a row. Alternativelythey provide a dog sitting service; advance booking is recommended. There are 2 stairs from the street up to the foyer. To access the auditorium there are 20 stairs to the Stalls, although for patrons with limited mobility there is an alternative access door to the Stalls from the foyer with 3 steps down. There are 30 stairs to the Dress Circle, 56 stairs to the Upper Circle and 77 stairs to the Balcony.

If you're driving into the West End to see the show, take advantage of the Q-Park Theatreland Parking Scheme saving you 50% off car parking for up to 24 hours. To qualify, present your Q-Park car park ticket for validation at the box office. Please note the discount does not apply to the pre-booking service, for full terms and conditions, participating car parks and locations visit: www.q-park.co.uk/theatreland. There is also NCP parking available in Drury Lane.

 

Location : Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 5AY

Transport: Underground: Leicester Square (Northern Line, Piccadilly Line) then 6 minutes. London Buses routes : 29, 24 and 176 stop close by.

What's On

Seating Plan.

Access Line : 0330 333 4815

Tel: 0844 482 9676