Theatre Royal Facade

Theatre Royal Facade

Theatre Royal  Interior

Theatre Royal Interior

 

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England. The building faces Catherine Street (earlier named Bridges or Brydges Street) and backs onto Drury Lane. The building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dated back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. According to the author Peter Thomson, for its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre". For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London (meaning spoken plays, rather than opera, dance, concerts, or plays with music).

The first theatre on the site was built at the behest of Thomas Killigrew in the early 1660s, when theatres were allowed to reopen during the English Restoration. Initially known as "Theatre Royal in Bridges Street", the theatre's proprietors hired prominent actors who performed at the theatre on a regular basis, including Nell Gwyn and Charles Hart. In 1672 the theatre caught fire and Killigrew built a larger theatre on the same plot, renamed the "Theatre Royal in Drury Lane"; it opened in 1674. This building lasted nearly 120 years, under the leaderships of Colley Cibber, David Garrick and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the last of whom employed Joseph Grimaldi as the theatre's resident Clown.

In 1791, under Sheridan's management, the building was demolished to make way for a larger theatre which opened in 1794. This new Drury Lane survived for 15 years before burning down in 1809. The building that stands today opened in 1812. It has been the residency of well known actors including; Edmund Kean, comedian Dan Leno, and the musical composer and performer Ivor Novello. From the Second World War, the theatre has primarily hosted long runs of musicals, including Oklahoma! (1947–1953), My Fair Lady (1958–1963), 42nd Street (1984–1989) and Miss Saigon (1989–1999), the theatre's longest-running show. The theatre is owned by the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

First theatre: Theatre Royal, Bridges Street (1663)

After the eleven-year-long Puritan Interregnum, which had seen the banning of pastimes regarded as frivolous, such as theatre, the English monarchy was restored to the throne with the return of Charles II in 1660. Soon after, Charles issued Letters Patent to two parties licensing the formation of new acting companies. One of these went to Thomas Killigrew, whose company became known as the King's Company, and who built a new theatre in Drury Lane. The Letters Patent also granted the two companies a shared monopoly on the public performance of legitimate drama in London; this monopoly was challenged in the 18th century by new venues and by a certain slipperiness in the definition of "legitimate drama," but remained legally in place until 1843.

The new playhouse, architect unknown, opened on 7 May 1663 and was known from the placement of the entrance as the "Theatre Royal in Bridges Street." It went by other names as well, including the "King's Playhouse." The building was a three-tiered wooden structure, 112 feet (34 m) long and 59 feet (18 m) wide; it could hold an audience of 700. Set well back from the broader streets, the theatre was accessed by narrow passages between surrounding buildings.

The King himself frequently attended the theatre's productions, as did Samuel Pepys, whose private diaries provide much of what we know of London theatre-going in the 1660s. The day after the Theatre Royal opened, Pepys attended a performance of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's The Humorous Lieutenant. He has this to say in his diary:

'The house is made with extraordinary good contrivance, and yet hath some faults, as the narrowness of the passages in and out of the Pitt, and the distance from the stage to the boxes, which I am confident cannot hear; but for all other things it is well, only, above all, the musique being below, and most of it sounding under the very stage, there is no hearing of the bases at all, nor very well of the trebles, which sure must be mended.'

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Performances usually began at 3 pm to take advantage of the daylight: the main floor for the audience, the pit, had no roof in order to let in the light. A glazed dome was built over the opening, but according to one of Pepys' diary entries, the dome was not entirely effective at keeping out the elements: he and his wife were forced to leave the theatre to take refuge from a hail storm. Green baize cloth covered the benches in the pit and served to decorate the boxes, additionally ornamented with gold-tooled leather, and even the stage itself. The backless green benches in the pit were in a semicircular arrangement facing the stage, according to a May 1663 letter from one Monsieur de Maonconys: "All benches of the pit, where people of rank also sit, are shaped in a semi-circle, each row higher than the next." The three galleries formed a semicircle around the floor seats; both the first and second galleries were divided up into boxes.

The King's Company was forced to commission the technically advanced and expensive Theatre Royal playhouse by the success of the rival Duke's Company, which was drawing fascinated crowds with their "moveable" or "changeable" scenery and visually gorgeous productions at the former Lisle's Tennis Court at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Imitating the innovations at Lincoln's Inn Fields, the Theatre Royal also featured moveable scenery with wings or shutters that could be smoothly changed between or even within acts. When not in use, the shutters rested out of sight behind the sides of the proscenium arch, which also served as a visual frame for the on-stage happenings.

The picture-frame-like separation between audience and performance was a new phenomenon in English theatre, though it had been found on the Continent earlier. Theatre design in London remained ambivalent about the merits of the "picture-box" stage, and for many decades to come, London theatres including Drury Lane had large forestages protruding beyond the arch, often including the thrust stages found in the Elizabethan theatres. The players could still step forward and bridge the distance between performer and audience, and in addition, it was not unusual for audience members to mount the stage themselves.

Killigrew's investment in the new playhouse put the two companies on a level as far as technical resources were concerned, but the offerings at the Theatre Royal nevertheless continued to be dominated by actor-driven "talk" drama, contrasting with William Davenant's baroque spectacles and operas at Lincoln's Inn Fields. Internal power structures were the main reason for this difference: while Davenant skilfully commanded a docile young troupe, Killigrew's authority over his veteran actors was far from absolute. Experienced actors Michael Mohun (who Pepys called "the best actor in the world") and Charles Hart held out for shares and good contracts in the King's Company. Such a division of power between the patentee, Killigrew, and his chief actors led to frequent conflicts that hampered the Theatre Royal as a business venture.

Nevertheless, it was mostly at the struggling Theatre Royal, rather than at the efficiently run Lincoln's Inn Fields, that the plays were acted that are classics today. This applies especially to the new form Restoration comedy, dominated in the 1660s by William Wycherley and the Theatre Royal's house dramatist John Dryden. Actors such as Hart and Charles II's mistress Nell Gwyn developed and refined the famous scenes of repartee, banter and flirtation in Dryden's and Wycherley's comedies. With the appearance of actresses for the first time at Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn Fields in the 1660s, British playwrights wrote parts for outspoken female characters, daring love scenes and provocative breeches roles. In any case, the competition between the King's Company and the Duke's was good for the rebirth and development of English drama.

The Great Plague of London struck in the summer of 1665, and the Theatre Royal, along with all other public entertainment, was shut down by order of the Crown on 5 June. It remained closed for 18 months until the autumn of 1666, during which time it received at least a little interior renovation, including widening of the stage. Located well to the west of the City boundary, the theatre was unaffected by the Great Fire of London, which raged through the City in September 1666, but it burned down six years later on 25 January 1672.

Second theatre: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1674).

During the 20th century, one illustration was repeatedly – and wrongly – published as "Christopher Wren, design for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 1674". Since 1964, this presumption has been disputed by scholars. Careful inspection of the drawing at All Soul's Library shows that it has one pencil inscription: "Play house" [sic], which may have been added by a librarian or by anyone else. No sign of a signature (by Wren or anyone else) or a date appears anywhere on the drawing. Robert D. Hume of Penn State University explained that use of the drawing "rests almost entirely on the supposition that the so-called "Wren section" at All Souls represents this theatre. It could just as easily be a discarded sketch unconnected to Drury Lane in any way."

Comparative evidence for Drury Lane's 1674 design can be found in the Theatre Royal, Bristol, built in 1766, whose design was modelled, in part, on Drury Lane's. The site measured 112 ft (34 m) east-west and 59 ft (18 m) north-south. The building was smaller than this, as reliable surveys and maps of the period show three passageways measuring between 5 and 10 ft (1.5 and 3.0 m) wide surrounding the Theatre Royal on three sides. The building probably measured between 40 and 50 ft (12 and 15 m) wide (the average width of all "Restoration" Theatres) and between 90 and 100 ft (27 and 30 m) long. Architect Robert Adam designed Drury Lane's 1674 interior. The theatre was managed, from 1747 to Adam's retirement in the 1770s, by David Garrick.

The King's Company never recovered financially from the loss of the old Theatre Royal Bridges Street. The cost of constructing the new theatre, replacing their costumes and scenery lost in the fire and competitive pressure from the rival Duke's Company contributed to its decline. Eventually, in 1682, the King's Company merged with the Duke's.

The 1674 Theatre Royal building contained a warren of rooms, including storage space and dressing rooms used by the management and performers, nearly seventy people in total, as well as some fifty technical staff members. Additionally three rooms were provided for scripts, including a library for their storage, a separate room for copying actors' parts and a special library for the theatre's account books, ledger books and music scores. This jumble of rooms often made communication among various departments difficult, a problem that Garrick corrected during his tenure as manager. The entire complex occupied 13,134 square feet (1,220 m2) bounded by Drury Lane (east), Brydges Street (west), Great Russell Street (north) and Little Russell Street (south).

From 1674, theatregoers accessed the Drury Lane via a long ten foot wide passageway from Bridges Street. The passageway opened onto a yard (previously a "Riding Yard") in which the theatre stood. It's likely that the yard remained open to the sky at this date, on three sides of the Theatre Royal walls. Henri Misson, a visitor from France, offers a description of the theatre in 1698: his use of the word "amphitheatre" supports the view that Drury Lane had a circular line of boxes surrounding its pit:

'The Pit is an Amphitheatre, fill'd with Benches without Backboards, and adorn'd and cover'd with green Cloth. Men of Quality, particularly the younger Sort, some Ladies of Reputation and Virtue, and abundance of Damsels that haunt for Prey, sit all together in this Place, Higgledy-piggledy, chatter, toy, play, hear, hear not. Farther up, against the Wall, under the first Gallery and just opposite to the Stage, rises another Amphitheatre, which is taken by persons of the best Quality, among whom are generally very few Men. The Galleries, whereof there are only two Rows, are fill'd with none but ordinary People, particularly the Upper one.

As Misson points out, the seating was divided by class, and tickets were priced accordingly. Box seats, used by the nobility and wealthy gentry, cost 5 shillings; the benches in the pit where some gentry sat, but also critics and scholars, cost 3 shillings; tradesmen and professionals occupied the first gallery with seats costing 2 shillings, while servants and other "ordinary people", as Misson refers to them, occupied the 1 shilling seats of the upper gallery. Seats were not numbered and were offered on a "first come, first served" basis, leading many members of the gentry to send servants to reserve seats well ahead of performances.

The stage was 45 feet (14 m) wide and 30 feet (9.1 m) deep with a raked floor from the footlights to the backdrop. The angle of the rake rose one inch for every 24 inches (610 mm) of horizontal stage. The stage floor included grooves for wings and flats in addition to trap doors in the floor. The proscenium arch covered the stage equipment above the stage that included a pair of girondels – large wheels holding many candles used to counteract the light from the footlights. Towards the latter part of the 18th century, doors were placed on either side of the stage, and a series of small spikes traced the edge of the stage apron to prevent audiences from climbing onto the stage. At the very back of the stage, a wide door opened to reveal Drury Lane.

An added difficulty for Killigrew and his sons Thomas and Charles was the political unrest of 1678–1684 with the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Bill crisis distracting potential audiences from things theatrical. This affected both the King's and the Duke's companies, but most of all the King's which had no profit margin to carry them through the lean years. In 1682, the companies merged, or rather, the King's was absorbed by the Duke's. Led at the time by Thomas Betterton, the United Company, as it was now called, chose Drury Lane as their production house, leaving the Duke's Company's theatre in Dorset Garden closed for a time.

In 1688 Betterton was removed from managerial control by Alexander Davenant, son of William Davenant, the original patent holder for the Duke's Company. Davenant's management (with Charles Killigrew) proved brief and disastrous, and by 1693 he was fleeing to the Canary Islands in the wake of embezzlement charges. The Theatre Royal found itself in the hands of lawyer Christopher Rich for the next 16 years.

Neither Davenant's nor Killigrew's sons were much better than crooks, and Rich attempted to recoup their depredations of the company's resources by cost-cutting tyranny, pitting actor against actor and slashing salaries. By 1695, the actors, including day-to-day manager and acting legend Thomas Betterton, were alienated and humiliated enough to walk out and set up a cooperative company of their own. Nine men and six women departed, all of them established professional performers, including such draws as tragedian Elizabeth Barry and comedian Anne Bracegirdle, leaving the United Company – henceforth known as the "Patent Company" – in "a very despicable condition," according to an anonymous contemporary pamphlet:

'The disproportion was so great at parting, that it was almost impossible, in Drury Lane, to muster up a sufficient number to take in all the parts of any play; and of them so few were tolerable, that a play must of necessity be damned, that had not extraordinary favour from the audience. No fewer than sixteen (most of the old standing) went away; and with them the very beauty and vigour of the stage; they who were left being for the most part learners, boys and girls, a very unequal match for them that revolted.'

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A private letter from 19 November 1696 reported that Drury Lane "has no company at all, and unless a new play comes out on Saturday revives their reputation, they must break." The new play is assumed to have been John Vanbrugh's The Relapse, and it turned out the success the company needed. Christopher Rich continued as its head until 1709, when the patent in question was actually revoked amid a complex tangle of political machinations. A lawyer named William Collier was briefly given the right to mount productions in Drury Lane, but by 1710 the troupe was in the hands of the actors Colley Cibber, Robert Wilks, and Thomas Doggett – a triumvirate that eventually found themselves sharply satirised in Alexander Pope's Dunciad. In 1713 Barton Booth replaced Doggett. The 2 March 1717 was the premiere of the ballet The Loves of Mars and Venus choreographed by John Weaver, and was the first ballet to be performed in England.

Cibber was the de facto leader of the triumvirate, and he led the theatre through a controversial but generally successful period until 1733, when he sold his controlling interest to John Highmore. It is likely that the sale was at a vastly inflated price and that Colley's goal was simply to get out of debts and make a profit. Members of the troupe at the time were most displeased; an actor's revolt was organised and executed; Charles Fleetwood came to control the theatre. Fleetwood's tenure was tumultuous; his abolition of the practice of allowing footmen free access to the upper gallery led to riots in 1737, and Fleetwood's gambling problems entangled the theatre in his own financial difficulties. It was during this period that actor Charles Macklin (a native of Inishowen in County Donegal in Ulster) rose to fame, propelled by a singular performance as Shylock in an early 1741 production of The Merchant of Venice, in which he introduced a realistic, naturalistic style of acting, abandoning the artificial bombast typical to dramatic roles prior.

In 1747, Fleetwood's playhouse patent expired. The theatre and a patent renewal were purchased by actor David Garrick (who had trained under Macklin earlier) and partner James Lacy. Garrick served as manager and lead actor of the theatre until roughly 1766, and continued on in the management role for another ten years after that. He is remembered as one of the great stage actors and is especially associated with advancing the Shakespearean tradition in English theatre – during his time at Drury Lane, the company mounted at least 24 of Shakespeare's plays.

Some of Shakespeare's surge in popularity during this period can be traced to the Licensing Act of 1737, which mandated governmental approval of any play before it could be performed and thereby created something of a vacuum of new material to perform. Garrick shared the stage with company including Peg Woffington, Susannah Cibber, Hannah Pritchard, Kitty Clive, Spranger Barry, Richard Yates and Ned Shuter. It was under Garrick's management that spectators were for the first time barred from the stage itself.

Garrick commissioned Robert Adam and his brother James to renovate the theatre's interior, which they did in 1775. Their additions included an ornate ceiling and a stucco facade facing Bridges Street. This facade was the first time any structure that might be considered part of the theatre proper actually abutted the street: the building, like the 1663 original, had been built in the centre of the block, hemmed in by other structures. The narrow passage from Bridges street to the theatre now became an interior hallway; some theatre office space also went up behind the new facade.

With a series of farewell performances, Garrick left the stage in 1776 and sold his shares in the theatre to the Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Sheridan and his partners, Thomas Linley the elder and Doctor James Ford (court physician to King George III), completed their purchase of Drury Lane two years later, and Sheridan owned it until 1809. Sheridan premiered his own comedy of manners The School for Scandal in 1777. Active management of the theatre was carried out by several parties during Sheridan's ownership, including himself, his father Thomas, and, from 1788 to 1796 and 1800 to 1802, the popular actor John Philip Kemble. Linley took up the post of Musical Director at the theatre, receiving a retainer of £500 per annum.

Sheridan employed dozens of children as extras at Drury Lane including Joseph Grimaldi who made his stage debut at the theatre in 1780. Grimaldi became best known for his development of the modern day white-face clown and popularised the role of Clown in many Pantomimes and Harlequinades. Towards the end of the 1790s, Grimaldi starred in Robinson Crusoe, which confirmed him as a key Christmas pantomime performer. Many pantomimes followed, but his career at Drury Lane became turbulent, and he left the theatre for good in 1806.

* Third theatre: 1794 *

The theatre was in need of updating by the end of the 18th century and was demolished in 1791, with the company moving temporarily to the new King's Theatre, in the Haymarket. A third theatre was designed by Henry Holland and opened on 12 March 1794. In the design of the theatre boxes, Henry Holland asked John Linnell for assistance. The designs by Linnell survive in the V & A Print Room – there are also designs by Henry Holland and Charles Heathcote Tatham who were involved in the design process. This was a cavernous theatre, accommodating more than 3,600 spectators. The motivation behind building on such a large scale? In the words of one owner:

'I was aware of the very popular notion that our theatres ought to be very small; but it appeared to me that if that very popular notion should be suffered to proceed too far it would in every way deteriorate our dramatic performances depriving the proprietors of that revenue which is indispensable to defray the heavy expenses of such a concern.'

New technology facilitated the expansion: iron columns replaced bulky wood, supporting five tiers of galleries. The stage was large, too: 83 feet (25 m) wide and 92 feet (28 m) deep. Holland, the architect, said it was "on a larger scale than any other theatre in Europe." Except for churches, it was the tallest building in London.

The "very popular notion that our theatres ought to be very small" proved hard to overcome. Various accounts from the period bemoan the mammoth size of the new theatre, longing for the "warm close observant seats of Old Drury," as one May 1794 theatre-goer put it. Actress Sarah Siddons, then part of the Drury Lane company, called it "a wilderness of a place" (and left Drury Lane along with her brother John Philip Kemble in 1803). Not only was any sense of intimacy and connection to the company on stage lost, but the very size of the theatre put a great deal of the audience at such a distance from the stage so as to make hearing a player's voice quite difficult. To compensate, the productions mounted in the new theatre tended more toward spectacle than the spoken word. An example of such a spectacle is a 1794 production that featured real water flowing down a rocky stream into a lake large enough on which to row a boat. This water issued from tanks in the attics above the house, which were installed – along with a much-touted iron safety curtain – as proof against fire.

After standing only 15 years, the third Drury Lane theatre building burned down on 24 February 1809. Richard Sheridan continued as theatre owner during the entire lifetime of this third building. He had grown in stature as a statesman during this time, but troubled finances were to be his undoing. The 1794 rebuilding had cost double the original estimate of £80,000, and Sheridan bore the entirety of the debt. Productions were more expensive to mount in the larger structure, and increased audience revenues failed to make up the difference.

An assassination attempt against King George III took place at the theatre on 15 May 1800. James Hadfield fired two pistol shots from the pit toward the King, sitting in the royal box. The shots missed by inches, Hadfield having been jostled by a Mr Dyte. Hadfield was quickly subdued, and George, apparently unruffled, ordered the performance to continue.

The comedy actor John Bannister became acting-manager in 1802. With Sheridan's son Tom, and in the circle of Richard Wroughton (stage-manager), William Dowton, Michael Kelly, Tom Dibdin and their likes, he helped to see the Theatre Royal through its next catastrophe. On 24 February 1809, despite the previously mentioned fire safety precautions, the theatre burned down. On being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, R.B. Sheridan was famously reported to have said: "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside." Already on the shakiest financial ground, Sheridan was ruined entirely by the loss of the building. He turned to brewer Samuel Whitbread, an old friend, for help. As well as investing strongly in the project, Whitbread agreed to head a committee that would manage the company and oversee the rebuilding of the theatre, but asked Sheridan to withdraw from management himself, which he did entirely by 1811.

* Modern theatre: 1812 *

The present Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, designed by Benjamin Dean Wyatt on behalf of the committee led by Whitbread, opened on 10 October 1812 with a production of Hamlet featuring Robert Elliston in the title role. The new theatre made some concessions toward intimacy, seating 3,060 people, about 550 fewer than the earlier building (though this size is still considered an extremely large theatre). On 6 September 1817, gas lighting was extended from the audience area to the stage, making it the first British theatre to be gaslit throughout. In 1820 the portico that still stands at the theatre's front entrance on Catherine Street was added, and in 1822 the interior underwent a significant remodelling. The colonnade running down the Russell Street side of the building was added in 1831.

Productions relying more on scenery and effects than on dialogue and acting remained commonplace in the new facility. The 1823 production of Cataract of the Ganges had a finale featuring a horseback escape up a flowing cataract "with fire raging all around." Effects for an 1829 production were produced by hydraulic apparatus that reportedly could discharge 39 tons of water.

There were those concerned that the theatre was failing in its role as one of the very few permitted to show legitimate drama. Management of the theatre after it reopened in 1813 fell to Samuel James Arnold, overseen by an amateur board of directors and a subcommittee focusing on the theatre as a centre for national culture. (Lord Byron was briefly on this subcommittee, from June 1815 until leaving England in April 1816.) Actor Edmund Kean was the on-stage highlight; like Macklin before him, he made his reputation as Shylock, premiering in the role in 1814. Kean remained until 1820 through praise and notorious disputes with local playwrights such as Charles Bucke.

Elliston leased the theatre from 1819 until he went bankrupt in 1826. An American, Stephen Price, followed (1826–1830); then through most of the remainder of the 19th century, Drury Lane passed quickly from one proprietor to another. A colonnade was added to the Russell Street frontage, in 1831, by architect Samuel Beazley. In 1833, Alfred Bunn gained control of both Drury Lane and Covent Garden, managing the former from 1833 to 1839, and again from 1843 to 1850. Following the lead of the Lyceum Theatre, London, Bunn championed English opera, rather than the Italian operas that had played earlier at the theatre. These included Fair Rosamond and Farinelli by John Barnett; a series of twelve operas by Michael Balfe including The Maid of Artois and The Bohemian Girl; Maritana and others by William Vincent Wallace and several by Julius Benedict.

In 1837, actor-manager Samuel Phelps (1804–1878) joined the company at Drury Lane, appearing with William Charles Macready, the gifted actor-manager in several Shakespeare plays. He also created the role of Captain Channel in Douglas Jerrold's melodrama, The Prisoner of War (1842), and of Lord Tresham in Robert Browning's A Blot in the 'Scutcheon (1843). Macready was briefly manager in 1841–1843, putting significant reforms in place. Nevertheless, most productions there were financial disasters.

The theatrical monopoly first bestowed by Royal Letters Patent 183 years earlier was abolished by the Theatres Act 1843, but the patent had been largely toothless for decades and this had little immediate effect. On the other hand, other theatres, used to presenting musical entertainments, continued to do so, and Drury Lane continued as one of the most accepted venues for legitimate theatre. The 19th-century run of financial and artistic failures at Drury Lane was interrupted by four plays produced over a twenty-five-year period by the actor-playwright Dion Boucicault: The Queen of Spades (1851), Eugenie (1855), Formosa (1869), and The Shaughraun (1875). But this period of general decline culminated with F. B. Chatterton's 1878 resignation; in his words, "Shakespeare spells ruin, and Byron bankruptcy." During the 19th century, Drury Lane staged ballet as well, with performers including Italy's Carlotta Grisi.

One famous musical director of Drury Lane was the eccentric French conductor and composer of light music Louis-Antoine Jullien (1812–1860), who successfully invited Berlioz to visit London and give concerts in the Theatre.

The house's fortunes rose again under the management of Augustus Harris from 1879. In the 1880s and 1890s, the theatre hosted many of the productions of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Harris focused increased resources on the theatre's annual pantomime, beginning at Christmas 1888, adding a well-known comedian, Dan Leno. These spectacular Christmas shows were a major success, often playing into March. They were choreographed by the theatre's dance master, John D'Auban.

Many of the designs under Harris were created by the imaginative designer C. Wilhelm, including the spectacular drama, Armada (1888), and many of the pantomimes. Productions relying on spectacle became the norm at Drury Lane under the managements first of Harris, from 1879 to 1896, and then of Arthur Collins from 1896 to 1923. Examples include the 1909 play, The Whip, which featured not only a train crash, but also twelve horses recreating the 2,000 Guineas Stakes on an on-stage treadmill. Jimmy Glover, Director of Music from 1893 to 1923, was a significant figure at the theatre during the Collins years and wrote books which record much more than its musical life.

The last major interior renovation was in 1922, under the ownership of managing director Sir Alfred Butt, at a cost of ₤150,000, leaving a four-tiered theatre able to seat just over 2,000 people. It was decorated with one of the most notable interiors produced by the specialist ornamental plasterwork company of Clark and Fenn. Composer and performer Ivor Novello, immensely popular in his time though little-remembered today, presented his musicals in Drury Lane from 1931 until the theatre was closed in 1939 because of the outbreak of the Second World War. During the war the theatre served as the headquarters for the Entertainments National Service Association; it sustained some minor bomb damage as well. The theatre reopened with Noël Coward's Pacific 1860 in 1946.

In the post-war years, four of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals made their London debuts in Drury Lane, holding the stage almost continuously for nearly a decade, including Oklahoma! (1947–1950), Carousel (1950–1951), South Pacific (1951–1953) and The King and I (1953–1956). American imports also included Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady, which began a five-year run in 1958. Productions in the 1960s included Camelot (1964–1965), Hello, Dolly! (1965–1967) and The Great Waltz (1970–1972). In 1974, Monty Python recorded an album at the theatre, Live at Drury Lane.

The theatre became part of the West End theatre scene and still stages popular musical productions. Later long runs at the theatre include productions of A Chorus Line (1976–1979), 42nd Street (1984–1989), Miss Saigon (1989–1999, the theatre's longest-running show), The Producers (2004–2007), an original musical, The Lord of the Rings (2007–2008), Oliver! (2009–2011) and Shrek the Musical (2011–2013). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical played from 2013 through January 2017. The Drury Lane is owned and managed by Really Useful Theatres, owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The seating plan for the theatre remains the same and the auditorium is still one of the largest in London's West End. The building was Grade I listed in February 1958. It is one of the 40 theatres featured in the 2012 DVD documentary series Great West End Theatres, presented by Donald Sinden.

On 15 May 2013, Lloyd Webber revealed a £4 million restoration of the theatre to mark its 350th anniversary. Using a team of specialists, the detailed restoration has returned the public areas of the Rotunda, Royal Staircases and Grand Saloon, all of which were part of the 1810 theatre, to their original Regency style.

The author Tom Ogden calls the Theatre Royal one of the world's most haunted theatres. The appearance of almost any one of the handful of ghosts that are said to frequent the theatre signals good luck for an actor or production. The most famous ghost is the "Man in Grey", who appears dressed as a nobleman of the late 18th century: powdered hair beneath a tricorne hat, a dress jacket and cloak or cape, riding boots and a sword. Legend says that the Man in Grey is the ghost of a knife-stabbed man whose skeletal remains were found within a walled-up side passage in 1848. Various people have reported seeing the ghost, including W. J. MacQueen-Pope, who described its usual path as starting at the end of the fourth row in the upper circle and then proceeding via the rear gangway to the wall near the royal box, where the remains were found.

The ghosts of actor Charles Macklin and clown Joseph Grimaldi are also supposed to haunt the theatre. Macklin appears backstage, wandering the corridor which now stands in the spot where, in 1735, he killed fellow actor Thomas Hallam in an argument over a wig ("Goddamn you for a blackguard, scrub, rascal!" he shouted, thrusting a cane into Hallam's face and piercing his left eye). Grimaldi is reported to be a helpful apparition, purportedly guiding nervous actors skilfully about the stage on more than one occasion. The comedian Stanley Lupino claimed to have seen the ghost of Dan Leno in a dressing room.

** –– **

AUDIO

This second Theatre Royal is the Theatre which David Garrick ran with great success from 1747 to 1776. Details of productions at Drury Lane, and the Covent Garden Theatre, from 1760 to 1771 can be read here. Garrick's farewell performance at Drury Lane was as Don Felix in 'The Wonder' on the 10th of June 1776. It was a part he had played many times at Drury Lane. In the cast were David Garrick playing Don Felix, and Mr. Palmer, Mr. Philips, Mr. Burton, Mr. Woodward, Mr. Usher, Mr. Johnston, Mrs. Davies, Mrs. Clive, Miss Minors, and Miss Macklin. The play was followed with A Masquerade Scene and musical entertainment called 'The Chaplet' with Mr. Beard, Mr. Rooker, Mrs. Vernon, and Mrs. Clive. The evening concluded with a 'Rural Dance'. Prices were: Boxes 5 shillings, Pit 3 shillings, First Gallery 2 shillings, Upper Gallery 1 shilling.

W. Macqueen Pope, writing in his book 'The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane' in 1945, said of Garrick's farewell performance as Don Felix in 'The Wonder in 1776:- 'The vast theatre could not accommodate all who wished to be present. Great personalities fought to get in, and were content with any corner. It was a night without parallel in theatre history. Garrick, who had played the part so many times, gave yet his finest performance; but it was noted that he did not join in the gay Country Dance which ended the show. The curtain fell; and to a hushed and tremulous audience the great actor advanced alone on that beloved stage to speak his last lines, to say farewell. For the first time he betrayed emotion, he was near to tears. He mastered himself with a visible effort, and amidst a deep hush, he commenced to say the last words he would ever utter from the boards which he knew so well.' - W. Macqueen Pope, 'The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane', 1945.

This second Theatre Royal eventually fell into such a state of disrepair that it was decided that demolition was the only option. Consequently the Theatre closed on the 4th of June 1791 with a production of 'The Country Girl' and the farce 'No Song, No Supper'. Demolition proceeded shortly afterwards whilst the Drury Lane Company itself decamped to the King's Theatre in the Haymarket until the rebuild was completed in 1794.

The Third Theatre Royal, Drury Lane was constructed between 1791 and 1794 by Henry Holland and opened for business on Monday the 21st of April 1794 with the Shakespeare play 'Macbeth', although an official opening of the Theatre had taken place some weeks earlier with a performance consisting of a 'Grand Selection of Sacred Music' from the works of Handel at the newly opened Theatre on Wednesday the 12th of March 1794. The Theatre was constructed using some of the previous Theatre's structure but was far larger, and although a grand edifice externally, internally it was plagued with sight line and sound problems from the start.

In the book 'London and Middlesex' Volume 3 Part 2, published in 1815, they printed some details of this third Theatre saying:- 'The plan of that Theatre included an area of 320 feet in breadth, and, measuring from the substratum to the roof, was 122 feet.

It was raised on the site of the old house, and opened in the year 1794. There were four tiers of boxes, a pit, and two galleries, with a number of private boxes, ranged on each side the pit, and constructed so as to command a perfect view of the stage, and yet conceal the occupiers from observation. The stage was 105 feet in length, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet between the stage doors.

Under the pit was a large range of lofty vaults, and immediately over it a spacious-room, and one for painting scenery, about, 75 feet wide, and 53 long: above the galleries was another painting-room, about 75 feet by 40.

There were two green-rooms: one for the use of chorus-singers and figurantes; the other for the principal performers: the latter of these apartments was elegantly fitted up. The scenery, under the direction of Mr. Greenwood, whose abilities rank very high in his profession, was always bold, effective, and impressive, and had frequently been aided by the chaste and humorous pencil of Marienari.

The pit was 54 feet in length, and 46 in breadth; had 25 rows of benches, and was so well constructed, that those next the orchestra commanded an uninterrupted view of the whole stage; and the avenues to it were commodious and safe. The interior of the Theatre resembled the shape of a horseshoe, and the spectator was forcibly struck with the grandeur of the design, elegant execution, and splendid effect of this once superb edifice.

The prevailing colours of the boxes were blue and white, relieved with richly fancied embellishments of decorative ornament. The compartments in which the front of each tier was divided had centrally a highly finished cameo, the ground of cornelian colour, with exquisitely drawn figures raised in white, the objects chiefly from Ovid; the stage boxes projected two feet, and had a raised silver-lattice work, of excellent taste and workmanship...

...The boxes were supported by cast-iron candalabras, fluted, and silver lackered, resting on elegantly executed feet. From the top of each pillar a branch projected three feet, from which was suspended a brilliant cut-glass chandelier; a circular mirror of five feet diameter was placed on each side the dress-boxes next the stage, that produced a pleasing reflected view of the audience.

On the nights when the Theatre was honoured with their Majesties' presence the partitions of the stage-box were taken down, and it was brought forward nearly two feet; a canopy was erected, superbly decorated with crimson velvet, richly embroidered with gold, and adjoining them sat the princesses. Their box was usually lined with light blue satin, fancifully festooned and elegantly decorated with silver fringe and rich tassels.

There were three entrances to the boxes, and two to the pit and galleries. The one in Brydges Street led to a saloon seventy-five feet by twenty-one, called the Egyptian Hall. Sixteen pillars of the Doric Order, beautifully painted in imitation of porphyry, were at once a splendid ornament, and supported the back boxes, to which a flight of stairs at each end led...

...Such was the interior of the late Drury Lane Theatre before the conflagration already mentioned laid the whole in ashes. The exterior of this edifice requires little description; the annexed view will convey an adequate idea of its appearance, which it must be confessed, had but little to recommend it to notice it had a sombre gloomy aspect, but ill suited to the purposes for which such buildings are erected...

...The architect was Henry Holland, who constructed the whole upon an immense and magnificent plan, as the account of the interior just given, shews. It was capable of holding in the pit 800 persons; the whole range of boxes, 828; the two-shilling gallery, 308; the total 3611 persons. The whole of this extensive building was surrounded by a stone balustrade, and on the top a colossal figure of Apollo.' The above text in quotes was first published in the book 'London and Middlesex' Volume 3 Part 2, 1815.

David Garrick as Richard III

David Garrick as Richard III

Theatre Royal  Interior 1808

Theatre Royal Interior 1808

 

This third Theatre Royal, Drury Lane was billed as a "Fireproof Theatre" and even had one of the first Iron Curtains with water tanks above it to prevent fire ravaging the building, but sadly the Theatre was to burn down just under 15 years after it was built, on the 24th of February 1809, after a performance of the Opera 'The Circassian Bride'.

Once again the Drury Lane Company found themselves without a home, and once again they decamped to the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, as they had done after the Second Theatre was closed and demolished in 1791. The Drury Lane Company opened at the King's Theatre on the 16th of March 1809 but were only there for a short period before they moved to the Lyceum Theatre on the Strand from April the 11th 1809. They would remain at the Lyceum until June 1812, and the rebuilt Theatre Royal, Drury Lane was finally completed and opened in October 1812.

The Fourth and present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which on the 10th of October 2012 celebrated its bicentenary, was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and constructed at a cost of almost £152,000, it opened on Saturday the 10th of October 1812 with a production of 'Hamlet Prince of Denmark'. The Theatre's architect published a book on his designs for the Theatre the following year, which you can read in full here.

* 1847 Redecoration *

In 1847 the Theatre was cleaned and redecorated to the designs of Frederick Gye, the Illustrated London News reported on the changes, and added a sketch of the auditorium, in their October 16th 1847 edition saying:- 'The theatre has been cleansed throughout - a labour as requisite here as in the Aegean stable of old. We have engraved the newly-decorated Auditory of the House, as seen from the stage, with the orchestra and floored pit, during a promenade concert.

The ground-colour throughout is a faint blossom. The fronts of the boxes, and of the lower gallery (to which the whole of the upper circle is now appropriated) are laced with a bold trellis of gilt moulding, upon which are suspended festoons of flowers, also gilt. On the dress circle, the festoons are looped through wreaths; and, on the other tiers, are smaller and simpler festoons, without the wreaths.

The coved, or outer circle of the ceiling, is broken in the centre by the upper gallery, which has an unsightly effect from the stage; but, on each side, are elliptically arched openings, with bold foliage, richly gilt, on the piers and above the arches; over these is a deep cooing of lattice, gilt; and next is the bordure - a bold wreath - inclosing the inner circle of the ceiling. This is painted to imitate a cloudless sky ; around the circle are jets of gas, and, from an aperture in the centre, hangs a vast chandelier of cut glass; the aperture is wreathed, and around it are six winged boys, bearing festoons of flowers, in effect supporting the lustre. The main design of the latter is six flags, of drops, with the lines of the union-Jack marked on each by light. There is also a profusion of drops, in large tassels, festoons, and garlanded forms, too various to describe. The effect of the whole, when lighted, is remarkably brilliant. Around the dress and first circles, are also hung small lustres, with the gas lights in ground-glass shades...

...The family boxes have been removed from the back of the dress circle, and an inner lobby formed in their place; but, as the backs of the boxes are low, their occupants are exposed to draughts of air from the continued opining of the lobby doors; this will soon become a subject of complaint, and will doubtless be remedied. The first circle is exclusively in private boxes; the draperies of which, as well as of the other circles are of scarlet cloth, trimmed with gold colour. The valens, if so it may be called, is straight and scanty, and has a mean effect. The boxes and lobbies are lined with a crimson ground and yellow patterned paper; and the reeded pillar supports of the boxes are entwined with gilt flowers and fruit.

In the Proscenium, there is little change: the crimson velvet and gold draperies have been displaced by the scarlet; the superb columns have been regilt in the caps and bases; and the pierced shafts are entwined by bold wreaths of flowers, richly gilt. The drapery of the Proscenium arch is plain crimson, without fold or flute, faced with gold trellis. It reminds one of the quaint fashion of an Anna Bolena cap-front...

...The draperies, inclosing the stage, are white and gold, of the usual design for the concert performance; and the orchestra is much as heretofore; this portion of the house being lighted by gilt lamps suspended from the flies. We should not omit to mention that in the rear of the stage is a spacious reading-room, a new feature of accommodation.

The decoration of the Auditory has been designed and superintended by Mr. Frederick Gye. The general effect is novel and sparkling; and, with the immense flood of gaslight, it is well adapted for the present performances; though the brightness of the embellishments does not show to advantage the black mass in the promenade. Possibly, before the dramatic season commences, it may be advisable to modify the brilliancy, or garish effect; else, to be seated five hours in such lustrous excess may be less pleasurable to the audience than was intended.

The whole of the ornaments - mouldings, fruit and flowers - are of papier-mache, and were made, gilt, and fixed by Mr. Bielefeld, in five weeks; the manufacture involving an extraordinary application of the steam-engine to decorative art.' The above text in quotes, and the top image, were first published in the Illustrated London News, 16th October 1847.

* The Circus comes to Drury Lane in 1851 and 1853 *

In June 1851 the Manager and Lease Holder of Drury Lane, James Anderson, (who had taken over the Theatre in 1849 hoping to profit from the Great Exhibition in London) retired from the Theatre's management due to debts of well over £5,000. To keep the Theatre open it was converted for a 4 month season of Circus use.

The Illustrated London News reported on the Circus season at Drury Lane in their 9th of August 1851 edition saying:- 'The star riders continue attractive, and the public crowd the theatre to award the prize of their plaudits to the French and American competitors. But by far the most astonishing miracle-worker of the number is an American equestrian, Thomas M'Collum by name, whose feats with two horses are the most remarkable examples of pirouetting and somerseting that we ever witnessed. While the horses are proceeding with the upmost rapidity, he describes several curves in the air repeatedly and comes down safely on their backs, having meanwhile composed a leap over a flag.

We present our readers with an illustration. Others might have been given of still greater beauty and daring, exerting wonder at the rider’s agility and the training of the noble animals that so implicitly obey the master’s volition. The excitement of these exhibitions is exceedingly great; and they have, indeed, in them a certain poetry of their own, calculated to affect the stable mind with a sense of beauty; and this is something.

If the highest dramatic poetry be necessarily banished from the Drury Lane stage, owing to the fault of the proprietary, in omitting to fit the machinery for scenic purposes, so as to make its occupation safe to an honest speculator, we see no reason why this equestrian spectacular poetry may not be substituted, until the requisite duty behind the scenes be performed by those who have this Temple of the Muses in trust, but neglect to discharge the obligation implied in their direction. If the intellect cannot be addressed, surely, if they can, the senses may, so that moral decorum be not violated.

But the fact should not be concealed that the present condition of the building is a national disgrace. The equestrian arrangements have been admirably prepared; and considerable credit is due for them to Mr Risley, who, we understand, is the manager of the entire performances.' - The Illustrated London News. 9th of August 1851, transcribed by Alfred Mason.

After the 4 month Circus season had ended, Alfred Bunn became the lessee of Drury Lane again. The above article alludes to the terrible state of the Theatre at that time and Bunn clearly took notice as he would redecorate the auditorium in the Louis XVI style before putting on a season of Operas until May 1852. Circus was revived in 1853 however, and a review from the Illustrated London News, in their 26th of November 1853 edition, are reproduced below.

'The performances of the American equestrians at Drury-lane Theatre continue to be very popular. Our Illustration represents one of the most attractive feats - the intrepid little equestrienne Mademoiselle Ella, taking her surprising leap over a flag nine feet in width. Mademoiselle Ella was born of French parents, at Louisiana, in the United States, and displayed from her earliest years an extreme fondness for horsemanship. Her feats, extraordinary as they appear, are all performed with an ease and confidence which relieve the mind of the spectator from the idea of their perilous nature, and of the physical exertion necessary to their accomplishment. In the foreground of the Engraving is introduced Barry, the famous Clown, who revives at Drury-lane all that genial fun which rendered him so popular at Astley's.' - The Illustrated London News, 26th of November 1853.

* The 1874 Conversion for Opera and then back to Theatre again in 1875 *

In March 1874 the Theatre was converted for use as an Opera House, the Building News and Engineering Journal reported on this in their March 20th 1874 edition saying:- 'HER MAJESTY'S OPERA - Drury Lane Theatre has again been converted into a brilliant opera-house in the short space of a week. The pit floor has been removed, lowered, and formed into "stalls" with a tier of boxes. The dress circle has been formed into a "grand tier" of boxes, and the upper circles in part. The whole of the "dramatic" draperies have been removed, and the original "Her Majesty's" amber satin curtains and hangings, &c., that, it will be remembered, were fortunately saved from the fire, have been substituted. The tout ensemble of the house is brilliant and imposing. The works have been carried out, as usual, by Messrs. Bracher & Son, the builders to the committee, under the personal superintendence of Mr. Marsh Nelson, the architect.' - The Building News and Engineering Journal, March 20th 1874.

In August 1875 the Opera alterations to the Theatre were removed and the Theatre was 'overhauled and repaired'. The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on this in their August 27th 1875 edition saying:- 'DRURY-LANE THEATRE - OLD Drury is being thoroughly overhauled and repaired throughout from roofs to basement. Portions of parapet and other walls are being taken down and rebuilt; old wood cornices that have been long in a state of utter decay are being removed, and the whole exterior repainted. The whole of the massive stone cornice and entablature to the colonnade, portions of which, it will be recollected, fell on the night of July 11, have been taken down and a new parapet and cornice reconstructed with hollow bricks and finished in Portland cement, forming a very much lighter structure, both in weight and effect, than the old stone one.

All the wood and lead-work is also being thoroughly overhauled and repaired. The interior of the house has also undergone the usual annual metamorphosis. The "Opera Auditorium" is demolished, and the "Theatrical Auditorium" has taken its place, with the conventional pit, dress circle, gallery, &c.; the stage is also brought forward to the original lines. The works are being carried out, under the combined superintendence of Messrs. Nelson and Harvey, the architects to the committee, and Mr. C. J. Phipps, the architect to the lessee, by Messrs. Bracher and Son, the builders to the committee, except the external painting, which is being executed by Mr. Cobbott.' - The Building News and Engineering Journal, August 27th 1875.

This wasn't the first time the Theatre had been altered for an Opera Season however, the Building News and Engineering Journal reported on another example in their April 3rd 1868 edition saying:- 'Old Drury, within six days and nights underwent a very considerable alteration to prepare it for the opera season, which commenced last Saturday. The portion of the pit formerly under the dress circle has been converted into a lower tier of private boxes, and the same change has been effected in the dress and upper circles, and in the sides of the second, while the central portion of the latter has been commodiously re-seated with stuffed chairs to form the dress circle. Above this are three rows of excellent amphitheatre stalls.

The pit space is entirely occupied by luxurious armchairs, the pit proper being abolished. The floors of the principal tiers have been raised, so as to secure additional comfort and excellence of view, and inner corridors constructed to diminish the otherwise extreme depth of the boxes. The whole of the walls are lined with chintz, which produces a general effect of light warm grey, and the boxes are enriched with amber satin curtains, balances, and arm-rests. The alterations were designed by Messrs. Marsh, Nelson, and Harvey, of Whitehall, and carried out by Messrs. Bracher and Son, of Great Ormond street. The gilding was restored by Mr. Kershaw, of Baker-street, and the upholstery and general fitting-up were executed by, Messrs. Green and King, of Baker-street, the decorators to the old Opera House in the Haymarket. - The Building News and Engineering Journal, April 3rd 1868.

* The 1899 Extension *

In 1899 an extension to the rear of the Theatre was added, the Building News and Engineering Journal reported on this in their May the 12th 1899 edition saying:- 'Extensive additions to Drury Lane Theatre have been commenced. The new buildings, the plans of which have been prepared by Messrs. Pilditch, Chadwick, and Co., 2, Pall Mall East, will be erected upon vacant ground between Catherine-street, Russell-street, and Drury-lane, immediately adjoining the existing premises. Upon this space, which has a length of 132ft. and a depth of 100ft., will be erected in red brick and stone a carpenter's shop, a wardrobe store, a ballet room, and a paint room. Two new exits will also be provided from the theatre. The new buildings will be connected with the old premises by a long covered way. The front elevation to Drury-lane will consist of three shops, with two floors of flats above them. The work will cost about £15,000.' - The Building News and Engineering Journal, May the 12th 1899.

* The 1904 Safety Alterations *

In 1904 the London County Council made an order requiring the directors of the Theatre make over 100 alterations to the Theatre for safety reasons. The Building News and Engineering Journal first reported on this in their 5th of August 1904 edition saying:- 'Next week it is expected that a final settlement will be arrived at with regard to the constructional alterations of Drury Lane Theatre. In the early part of the present year the London County Council made an order requiring the directors of Drury Lane to put their house into a condition more in keeping with modem ideas of safety. The various requirements numbered well over a hundred, many of them being, in the opinion of the directors, absolutely unnecessary, and they applied to the First Commissioner of Works to appoint an arbitrator. Mr. Slater, Vice-President of the R.I.B.A., having been appointed to hear evidence and settle the question between the two parties, has been sitting at Drury Lane. The only witnesses are Mr, Frank T, Verity, architect, on behalf of the London County Council, and Mr, Frank Matcham, architect, for the theatre.'

The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on the situation again in their 2nd of September 1904 edition saying:- 'At the annual meeting of the Drury Lane Theatre Company, held on Wednesday, Mr. T. H. Birch, who presided, animadverted on the action of the County Council in making unreasonable demands for alterations in the building, remarking that many of them were quite unnecessary for the safety of the public. The effect of their appeal to arbitration would be that thousands of pounds would be saved; but when the alterations in progress had been completed, Drury Lane Theatre would be one of the safest and most comfortable in the world.'

Despite the owners of the Theatre arguing over the, as they deemed it, unnecessary improvements required by the Council, the work was carried out and the Building News and Engineering Journal reported on the improvements in their 2nd of December 1904 edition saying:- 'Some time since the London County Council insisted on a number of alterations to be made in the theatre, many of which were objected to by the proprietors. The matter was submitted to the arbitration of Mr. John Salter, who was appointed arbitrator by the First Commissioner of Works, and alterations are being made in accordance with his award (which enforced 111 out of 143 requirements, 14 others being modified and 18 rejected) from the plans of Mr. Philip E. Pilditch, of Pall Mall East, who is consulting architect to the Bedford Estate, to which Drury Lane belongs.

The builders are Messrs. Leslie and Co., Ltd., of Kensington-square. In the auditorium the chief alterations concern the gallery and balcony. The lower tiers were constructed a few ago, but the upper ones have remained up to now as they were when the theatre was opened in 1813 [sic]. The alterations here consist in the removal of the wooden balcony, gallery, and ceilings, and the substitution of steel, concrete, and non-inflammable plaster. The cantilever system has not been adopted, and the overhanging structures are supported on solid steel columns, as this plan was used when the lower tiers were reconstructed.

In addition the gallery has been provided with fresh exits, and four new stone staircases, instead of the two old spiral ones, have been put in. The proscenium opening is also undergoing considerable decorative changes. On the other side of the curtain the alterations are of a still more extensive character. The stage has been rebuilt from basement to roof. The stage itself, which was of wood, is now of steel with teak boarding: there are new flies of steel, and a new grid from which the scenery cloths are suspended; and they will be worked by new wire ropes, instead of hemp, running in steel channels with counterweights. The cloths themselves are all treated with a fireproof solution and will not burn.

The rooms beneath the stage level have been reconstructed. The basement floor is of concrete instead of deal, and above that iron galleries run round the whole space and give access to the traps and gear for machinery. Behind the stage additional staircases have been provided for the performers, and a duplicate system of lighting the building with an alternative supply is being installed. Large sliding skylights have also been placed in the auditorium roof, the panels of which can be released by cutting a string, to allow any smoke to escape.'

* The Fire of 1908 *

Despite the 'safety' alterations to the Theatre in 1904, just 4 years later in 1908 a serious fire threatened to destroy Drury Lane again. Thankfully, due to the actions of the fire services and the lowering of the safety curtain only the stage house and some backstage areas were destroyed, leaving the auditorium and front of house intact.

You can read a report of this fire, and some of the work that went into restoring the Theatre afterwards, with many photographs of the fire damage itself here. Also see the Programme for the reopening production of 'The Marriages of Mayfair' after the fire damage was repaired in the Autumn of 1908 here.

* 1922 Auditorium Rebuild *

In 1922 the Theatre's auditorium was radically reconstructed by Emblin Walker, Jones & Cromie. Emblin Walker had recently reconstructed the Brighton Hippodrome without closing the Theatre, but here, at Drury Lane, the alterations were even more substantial. Out went the old Horse Shoe shaped auditorium with its four circles, and in its place arose a completely new auditorium with three circles.

The Stage Newspaper reported on the reconstruction of the Theatre's auditorium in their 16th of March 1922 edition saying: 'The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane has, by a wonderful scheme of reconstruction, been transformed from an old, ugly building into a new, elegant, comfortable and commodious theatre. The work of reconstruction is the more remarkable because, for doubtless good reasons, the exterior walls had to be left standing, and all the old rubbish and new material had to be taken out and brought in through existing doorways or holes cut through the walls. Further, the work of demolition and of reconstruction had to go on together, new internal walls and piers having to be built in places before it was safe to pull down in others. The job, therefore, was a difficult one for both architect and builder. How well they have each done their work is shown by the veritable "transformation scene" that has taken place within the walls of "Old Drury."

Unusual difficulties were encountered in carrying out the architect's designs. For one thing, every bit of the old work left standing had to be tested, and generally strengthened. Further, the condition or even the exact positions of these old pieces of structural work were not, in many cases, known. All sorts of curious conditions and even irregularities of construction were discovered during the work of demolition - relics of the old building of 1812 and of the various alterations the old edifice had undergone.

One result was that the architect's plans had, in several cases, to be modified to meet these unforeseeable obstacles, and many minor feats of applied engineering had to be performed by the contractor. The bringing in of the steel girders to bridge the proscenium span, 88 ft. wide, themselves measuring 6 ft deep and weighing hundreds of tons, and the moving back of the great steel safety curtain on the stage for the widening of the proscenium were triumphs of skill - performed, as they were, within the restricted area of the four square walls of the old building.

The former horseshoe shape of the auditorium has been replaced by a rectangular arena, thus allowing far more space for seating. The four old circles and gallery have been replaced by three new circles, and these have been extended inwards, so that they each hold twelve instead of six rows of seats. To provide this greater spacing, the galleries project, in some cases, for an extra 16 feet. The overhanging portions are constructed on the cantilever system, so that there are no pillars or any other obstructions to the view of the stage from any seat the house.

On the first tier there is a spacious apartment for Royalty, and there are twenty one large, comfortable boxes. The well for the orchestra has been enlarged, in view of giving performances of grand opera. Another important alteration is the provision of commodious dressing rooms for the artists - a thing too often lacking in the old insanitary days of theatre construction. The stalls are now reached by a new short stairway, running direct from the main entrance hall; the pit is raised so as to overlook the whole ground floor...

...An important feature of the scheme was the new roof, which has replaced the old one. It has been raised some 8 feet higher than the level of the old one; it will not obstruct the view of the last man in the topmost row of the highest gallery, and it will give greater air space, and allow of more thorough ventilation.

Behind the topmost seats in the upper gallery, a projection cabin has been built. It it the largest of its kind, having a floor area 32 feet by 17 feet, and it houses twenty powerful lamps for the flooding of the stage with any kind of powerful or coloured light. The cabin, and indeed the whole roof, has been constructed of ferro-concrete, which materiel has entered large, into the formation of many of the structural features of the practically new building.

The ventilation of the new 'Old Drury' has been most thoroughly and scientifically carried out. Besides all the now usual means for exhausting the vitiated atmosphere of large, crowded buildings, there is installed the latest system of ventilation known. The fresh air admitted into the theatre will be not only filtered by passing through sanitary cotton-wool, but, also by being forced through a spray of water, which, also can be blended with disinfecting liquids.

Exteriorly the theatre has been redecorated, the old walls, columns, and piers made good, and distempered and painted pleasing colours. Internally the house has been decorated and upholstered in the latest Styles of theatre art ornamentation. It is probable that sentiment prevented the demolition of the outer walls, and though the cost of rebuilding was great - over £100,000 - it was doubtless worth it, for the maintenance of the old traditions and associations connected with London's oldest theatre.' The above text in quotes was first published in The Stage, 16th of March 1922.

* Horatio Lloyd and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane *

"Amongst the greatest and the most popular performers of the other sex whom I have seen and remember, are - or rather were, for it must be about 20 years since the last survivor of them departed- Charles Kemble, Charles Young, Ward, Fawcett, Jones, William Farren, the elder; Blanchard, Tyrone Power, Harley, Mcready, the elder Chas. Matthews, Terry Yates, T. P. Cooke, James Wallack, John Reeve, Wright, Buckstone, Robert Keeley, Knight, Liston, and the immortal Edmund Kean. The two last named I saw for the first time at Drury Lane, on the same evening. First Kean as Richard III., and then Liston as Lubin Log, In the favourite farce of those days, "Love, Law, and Physic." I can never forget the intense delight which afforded me.

The magnificence of the theatre, the delightful music, the crowded auditorium, and the grand acting produced by a combination which enraptured my young brains. Subsequent to this I visited "Old Drury" regularly once a week. Every Monday evening found me quietly ensconced in the right-hand corner of the front seat of the two shilling gallery anxiously awaiting the rising of the great green curtain. It was here and thus that I so often witnessed the performances of the two great stars I have mentioned-Liston more particularly. Although poor Kean's powers were evidently on the wane in the eyes of those who had enjoyed his earlier years, there was no such drawback in my case.

I had never seen him in his prime, and in all he said or did now I could see no fault, but everything to admire. Liston took me captive completely. I saw him in all his popular parts, and consider him the most glorious low comedian I ever saw and listened to. He must have been made expressly for a comedian. He was remarkably ugly - that is to say, in so far as the physiognomy was concerned. Plump cheeks, one larger than the other, a turn up nose, and a twist on one side of the mouth-these were his leading facial features. But he was a tall gentlemanly man, with a very handsome figure. His face alone made the audience roar with laughter before he spoke a word. He would come on the stage and stand silently looking at them, as if overcome with surprise, mingled with disgust at their rudeness.

Then when he had got them almost into convulsions by his simple power of facial expression, he would begin muttering to himself, turn his back to them, and walk up the stage. This was the last straw; for the reason that the exhibition of the unusually ample proportions in the rear with which Nature had been pleased to endow him was considered by his faithful patrons to be the acme of humour. With this sort of pantomime he would keep them into fits for five or six minutes without uttering a word. I repeat that I consider him to be the greatest low comedian I ever beheld. It was no acting; it was the man himself- nature- and that made his drolleries so acceptable." The above text in quotes above is from Horatio Lloyd's Autobiography 1886.

* Will Evans and his Drury Lane Pantomimes *

Will Evans was born on the 29th May 1866, and became a well known name in Music Hall and Pantomime in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was the son of Fred Evans, a clown in the Grimaldi tradition, and made his first appearance with his father when aged just six years old in a production of 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1881. After this he went on tour with his father's comedy company for many years before returning to London in 1890 to perform in the Music Halls with his wife Ada Luxmore.

After his wife died he carried on as a solo artiste and comedian. His specialty was playing in comic domestic dramas, now better known as farces, the most popular of which were `Building a Chicken House', 'Whitewashing the Ceiling', and 'Papering a House'. He was often to be seen in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane's regular Christmas Pantomimes.

* The Drury Lane Pantomime production of 'Sleeping Beauty' 1912/13/14 *

When the Pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' was produced at Drury Lane in 1912 the long tradition of having a woman playing principle boy was changed when they had a man play him instead, Wilfred Douthitt, whilst Florence Smithson played Beauty. The production also featured Will Evans, George Graves, Barry Lupino, Renee Mayer, Charles Rock, and the Poluski Brothers.

The following year the same pantomime was revived for the 1913 Christmas season, although this time it was called 'Sleeping Beauty Reawakened'. The cast for this production was almost the same as in 1912 but Forrester Harvey was added to the cast along with Stanley Lupino who was playing his first role in a Drury Lane Pantomime.

The following year, 1914, War broke out, and Arthur Collins put on 'Sleeping Beauty' again as it was a sure fire hit, if you pardon the pun. This time it was called 'Sleeping Beauty Beautified'. Changes to the cast for this revival included Betram Wallis as the principal boy, and Ferne Rogers as Beauty. In 1915 another pantomime, Puss in Boots' was produced so ending the three year Christmas run of 'Sleeping Beauty'.

* George Hoare, General Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane 1958- 1982 *

'George Hoare became General Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane shortly before the musical My Fair Lady began in early 1958. George was 47 and the most experienced manager of Stoll Theatres at the time. His Assistant Manager was Ernest Kingdon and the resident stage staff were Jack Miller, Lou Walton, who was at that time Julie Andrew's father-in-law, George Wright and George Sinclair. This was a period when the Theatre was said to have been the most efficient and friendly Theatre to work in, both FOH and backstage. This was also the time when the General Manager was all powerful, there were no middle managers and he would run everything. He was always dressed immaculately in Evening Dress, and supervised the staff, arranged all the functions, organised Press and Public Relations work and would hire out the Theatre to television and film companies and other bodies. The day-to-day ordering of everything needed in the Theatre was up to him.

In his time at Drury Lane George met almost all of the Royal Family when they visited the Theatre, and when he escorted the Queen to the Royal Box on official occasions she would always ask "Are we ready Mr Hoare?". The Queen would also sometimes take her children to a matinee by slipping in at the side door and sitting in the stalls rather than the Royal Box. And it was George who took it upon himself to apply to Buckingham Palace for permission to place the Prince of Wales crest above his box and he was delighted when his request was granted.

During his twenty four years at Drury Lane George was honoured to greet and entertain hundreds of VIPs from all over the world, from the Shah & Empress of Persia and the King & Queen of Thailand to Sir Winston & Lady Churchill and Sir Charles & Lady Chaplin. Winston Churchill gave George one of his famous cigars and no doubt he chatted to Chaplin about his father and Fred Karno.

In 1979 George moved into one of the flats adjoining the rear of the Theatre and so probably had the shortest commute of any employee at Drury Lane. Many people were given their first employment in the Theatre by George. One person in particular, whose job it was to clean and polish the brasswork around the Theatre's entrance, has done very well in the business. He is Sir Cameron Mackintosh who readily acknowledges this first rung on the ladder of success, which in turn he has subsequently turned into employment for numerous people with his sharp eye for good productions.

George retired as General Manager of Drury Lane in 1982 but he continued to be connected with the Theatre as full time Consultant, Historian, and Archivist for Stoll Moss Theatres and began to build up the "George Hoare Theatre Collection" which was housed in the old Treasury Room of the Theatre and is a valuable archive which continues to be added to today. George died on the 17th of August 1997 but is still fondly remembered today by those who knew and worked with him during his time at Drury Lane.'

The above text on George Hoare is a brief edited version of the full biography written by his son Jeremy and is courtesy and copyright © Jeremy Hoare.

* Augustus Harris at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1879 *

Augustus Harris ran Drury Lane from 1879 and put on a huge number of extremely popular and lavish pantomimes and spectacular shows. He became very well known by the British public and people would flock to see a Harris show, indeed he turned round the fortunes of the Theatre from failure to immense success. Harris died on the 22nd of June 1896 at the age of 44 having controlled Drury Lane for 17 years.

Harris's first production at the Lane in 1879 was 'Henry V' with George Rignold in the leading part. This was an immediate success and the Theatre was full to bursting every night. After this Harris staged the pantomime 'Bluebeard' at Christmas and it is said that it was 'the most spectacular pantomime London had ever seen.'

After this Harris staged a series of dramas at the Theatre and then went on to stage another pantomime the following Christmas, 'Mother Goose' and this time he had comedians from the Music Halls playing the leads, something which had never been tried before, with artistes including Kate Santley, James Fawn, and Arthur Roberts. Indeed over the years most of the big names in Music Hall appeared in Harris's pantomimes including Nellie Power, Vesta Tilley, Herbert Campbell, Little Titch, Arthur Williams, Marie Lloyd and many more.

Harris's pantomimes were lavish affairs costing £5,000 to £6,000 a piece, a vast sum in those days, but it certainly paid off. Soon becoming known as Augustus Druryolanus, a name he coined himself, Harris could do no wrong. He co-wrote and played in many of his dramas and pantomimes himself, and put on all manner of productions at the Theatre including plays, dramas, pantomimes, variety, and opera.

By the time of his death Augustus Harris controlled six or seven Theatres, many touring companies, and other businesses, and at one time he had even owned and written regularly for the Sunday Times newspaper. Such was his popularity that after he died a drinking fountain was placed outside the front of the Theatre, erected as a tribute to Harris, paid for by public subscription. It was unveiled by the Lord Mayor on Monday the 1st of November 1897, and is still there today.

* The Drury Lane production of 'The Armada' in 1888 *

A production of outstanding merit in every way at Drury Lane was 'The Armada,' produced in 1888 to mark the tercentenary of the defeat of that so-called Invincible Fleet. It was written by Henry Hamilton and Gus Harris. It had a big cast which included Winifred Emery, Ada Neilson, Leonard Boyne (hero), Luigi Lablache, Harry Nicholls, Victor Stevens, and many more. Here was a story of love and adventure finely told and wonderfully staged. A wicked Spaniard carries off the fair English girl (played by Winifred Emery), and the hero, Vyvyan Foster (Leonard Boyne), goes in pursuit.

There was the villain's palace in Madrid where he threatens to hand the girl over to the Inquisition if she will not surrender to him. The hero, being a hero, got access to her and said he would come to the rescue. His ship was attacked and there was a most spirited fight. Vyvyan captured his attacker, no less a person than the Alcalde, and from him wrung the secret of when the Armada is to sail. What is he to do—return at once and warn his country, or stay and rescue his girl? Love or duty? Duty wins and he sails for home, but tells the Spaniards he holds the Alcalde as hostage for his sweetheart's safety. He sees Queen Elizabeth, and the great commanders, Effingham, Walsingham, Raleigh, Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher. He calls for volunteers, in a very beautiful scene representing the village of Charing, in Kent. Naturally, he gets them.

The famous Bowls scene on Plymouth Hoe was reproduced—after the picture by Seymour Lucas—and there was a perfectly marvellous reproduction of the English Fleet fighting the Armada, which drew volleys of applause. The little matter of defeating the Armada being over, the hero went to Spain to get his girl. She was in the hands of the Inquisition and was condemned to death. There she stood, in the next scene, tied to the stake, with the howling populace all about her and the deadly torches about to be applied to the pyre, whilst the priests chant the miserere. And then, through the throng, burst the hero and his gallant crew. In a fight they cut down the Spaniards and cut loose the girl.

And so back to England, with a knighthood for the hero from the sword of Queen Bess and a pageant of her triumphant progress to St. Paul's—a happy wedding —red fire—the final curtain and a delighted and enthusiastic audience. No better piece of stagecraft was ever seen than that battle with the Armada. To advertise this play Harris issued tens of thousands of little metal coins, of brass, and about the size of sovereigns. On one side it said '1588 The Armada 1888'—surrounded by the words 'Drury Lane Theatre Every Evening'. On the other there was a representation of a sea fight, surrounded by the words `Augustus Harris, Lessee and Manager 1888'. Thousands of those little 'coins' still exist and people write to Drury Lane concerning them and ask if they have any value. Except as curios, they have none. These words may reach the eyes of those who may come across one. Text edited from 'The Pillars of Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope, 1955.

* The Baddeley Cake *

The Baddeley cake is named after Robert Baddeley who was a popular actor at Drury Lane for many years until he died in 1794 during the run of his most celebrated part, Moses in 'School for Scandal.' Baddeley left instructions that on the death of his wife 'certain monies' were 'to go to the society established for the relief of indigent persons belonging to Drury Lane Theatre.'

And amongst other requests he also left provision that the interest from £100 be used on the Twelfth Night of every year for the purchase of a cake, with wine and punch, for the Drury Lane Company in residence to partake of in the Green Room of the Theatre so that they might remember him. Remarkably this tradition has survived and Baddeley is indeed celebrated and remembered each year on the 6th of January to this day.

AUDIO

* The Romance of London Theatres by Ronald Mayes *

* No. 110. Drury Lane (1660-1809) *

'In 1660 the Master of the Revels issued a permit to Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant to "erect two companies of players . . . and to build two houses or theatres. Davenant's letters patent eventually made their way to the hands of John Rich who built Covent Garden Theatre. Killigrew purchased from the Earl of Bedford a forty-one years' lease of a piece of ground situated in the two parishes of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, and St Martin`s-in-the Fileds.

During the building of the theatre Killigrew's Company performed in a temporary building in Bear Yard, near Lincoln's Inn Fields. The New Theatre in Drury Lane was built at a cost of fifteen hundred pounds, the dimensions of which were one hundred and twelve feet by fifty-nine feet. It was opened in 1663 with Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy, "The Humorous Lieutenant," of which Pepy's writes, " a silly play 1 think - only the spirit in it that grows very tall and then sinks again to nothing, having two heads breeding upon one, and then Knipp's singing did please us."

To this period also belongs that incarnation of frolic and merriment, Nell Gwynne. It is popularly supposed that as a child she sold oranges in the pit of Drury Lane and made her way to the stage at the early age of fifteen. Pepys tells us that he kissed her.

The second theatre built by Sir Christopher Wren was opened on March 26th, 1674. Here for many years Thomas Betterton held sway. Silvertone Betterton first served his apprenticeship at the "Cockpit," and was a universal favourite at old Drury. He took a farewell "benefit" here in 1709, when in his seventy-fifth year, finally retiring from the stage and dying in 1710. The theatre is next intimately associated with Colley Cibber, manager and dramatist, and for twenty-seven years Poet Laureate. During this period we have James Quin, for long the favourite tragedian of the town, Macklin and Peg Woffington.

Cibber was followed by David Garrick who was there from 1747 to 1776. Garrick restored Shakespeare, which had been grossly neglected and introduced several improvements in stage display. Sheridan next comes to the front as manager, presiding over such great actors as Mrs. Siddons, John and Charles Kemble, and John Henderson. The theatre was pulled down in 1791 and rebuilt three years later.

The Kembles were the principal attraction at Drury Lane until they withdrew in 1803, when the fortunes of the theatre were seriously affected. We are told that Sheridan's translation of "The Death of Rolla," brought him in £25,000 in five weeks. Drury Lane Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1809, when Sheridan was at the House of Commons. He left and went to a little coffee house opposite his property and drank a bottle of port with his friend Barry, coolly remarking, "it was hard if a man could not drink a glass of wine by his own fire."' The above text in quotes was first published in The Romance of London Theatres by Ronald Mayes - From a London Pavilion Programme in 1930.

Charles Macklin as Shylock

Charles Macklin as Shylock

Edmund Kean as Richard III

Edmund Kean as Richard III

Great Actors from Drury Lane

* Charles Macklin *

It is thought that Macklin was born near Culdaff, a village in Inishowen in the north of County Donegal in the province of Ulster, Ireland, in 1690, and moved to Great Britain in either 1725 or 1726; the dates in his early life are not entirely clear. According to William Archer in Eminent Actors, "at his death, Macklin was believed to be 97, but his biographers have endeavored to show that he was at least 107. The main lines of controversy are to be found in the 3 biographies of Congreve, Kirkman, and Cook". Thomas Kirkman and William Cooke, in Eminent Actors, assert that "William MacLochlainn, father of Charles Macklin, had a daughter and a son, who were born two months prior to the Battle of the Boyne, which took place in 1690". Given this information, this would make Macklin 107 years old at his death. However, in his own words, he was born 'in the last year of the last century', making the year 1699 the year of his birth. In fact, The Monthly Mirror of February 1796, a year before his death, stated that: "Macklin, according to this statement, must be in his hundred and sixth year, or thereabouts, whereas he is in fact no more than ninety-seven". According to William Archer, author of Eminent Actors, there “were no registers of births, deaths, and marriages kept in Ireland in 1690”.

His family’s surname was McLaughlin, but "seeming somewhat uncouth to the pronunciation of an English tongue,” he changed it for the English stage. He found various jobs as an actor in London, but, apparently, his Ulster accent was an obstacle to success and he could not find a steady theatre home until he was noticed in a small character role in Henry Fielding's Coffee-House Politician at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1725. It was after that fine performance, that would go unnoticed by a lesser actor, that he was snatched up by the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane as an actor and a resident acting manager, serving with James Quin. Their relationship was professional, but full of plenty of animosity. Macklin devotes a lengthy section of his memoirs to Quin, giving examples of their disagreements. Macklin admits that "nothing but the necessity of business could ever make them associate together". Even the necessity of business sometimes dissolved; however, after some contract and pay disagreements in the 1741–42 season, Macklin and nearly the entire Drury Lane resident company left and attempted to find work elsewhere.

Macklin's most important role, the one that catapulted him to stardom in eighteenth century London, was Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. For several decades, the popular version of the play was a "fixed" text by George Granville, titled The Jew of Venice. In it, many roles were expanded, while Shylock and others were dramatically shortened. The eighteenth century audiences were used to seeing a comic Shylock, often dressing him in a red wig and a large nose, resembling the commedia dell'arte character Pantalone.

Macklin wanted a different path to playing this character. While Macklin didn't return to the Bard's script exactly as it was written, he did make his own edits to Shakespeare's script that were much closer than Granville's text. Instead of portraying Shylock as the usual comic pantolone, he played him as darkly villainous, serious, and highly satirical. Next, rather than dress Shylock as a clown, Macklin researched his role. He studied Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, and observed Jewish people in London. He learned that Italian Jews, especially from Venice, were known to wear red hats, so he took that as a basis for his costume. In seeking to portray Jews exactly how they looked, Macklin emphasised the notion of historical accuracy in costuming, which would later become an inherent feature of realism in the 19th century. What's even more interesting is that Macklin did not merely "study" the Jews. According to William Appleton, in An Actor's Life, "he actually interacted with them in marketplaces and learned to gradually adapt their way of speech".

Finally, opening night came. This faithfulness to Shakespeare's original intent for the character, combined with Macklin's revolutionary method of attempting some semblance of realism in his performance, resulted in uproarious applause. Macklin himself confesses, "On my return to the green-room, after the play was over, it was crowded with nobility and critics, who all complimented me in the warmest and most unbounded manner". King George II saw the production and was so moved he could not fall asleep that night. A bystander in the audience of the show admitted famously, "This is the Jew / That Shakespeare drew".

Many tried to replicate Macklin's performance of Shylock, but none of the six actors that attempted the role at the rival Covent Garden theatre from 1744 to 1746 were able to match nearly the acclaim that Macklin had received for his Shylock. Even Macklin was unable to match his performance. He did have a varied career, filled with at least 490 roles, but none of them were anywhere near the uproar his Shylock caused. Even his two closest in hype, roles from The Confederacy and Love for Love, were roles designed to emulate Shylock. He played Shylock for nearly the next fifty years, as well as Iago in Othello and the Ghost in Hamlet. In Ben Jonson's Volpone, he played the part of Mosca. He was the creator of Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, a famous burlesque character, and he was Macbeth at Covent Garden in 1772, in a production with authentic Scottish costumes.

Together with David Garrick, his student, friend, and partner, Macklin revolutionised acting in the 18th century. Garrick and Macklin eventually had a falling out in the mid-1740s, which derailed Macklin's rise whilst propelling Garrick's own career. Macklin, then the stage manager at Drury Lane, participated in an actor walkout. When the actors, led by Garrick, were forced to accept the owner's terms, they had to abandon Macklin, who, as the stage manager, should have quelled the actors' strike, rather than participated in it. Macklin felt betrayed by Garrick and the other actors.

He also acted regularly in Dublin, in the Aunger Street and Smock Alley Theatres and in the Crow Street Theatre, which he founded in 1758.

Macklin retired from the stage in 1753, then opened a tavern at which he gave a nightly lecture followed by a debate, which Macklin called the British Inquisition. The evening began with a lecture by Macklin. According to some histories, Macklin claimed at one of these shows to have such a good memory that he could recite any speech after reading through it once. As a challenge, Samuel Foote allegedly wrote The Great Panjandrum, a nonsense poem designed to be particularly difficult to memorise. The word Panjandrum has since passed into the English language.

Macklin returned to the stage, but finally retired in 1789, when he found he was no longer able to recall the entire part of Shylock. He lived another eight years, supported by the income from a subscription edition of two of his best plays, The Man of the World and Love in a Maze. He wrote many plays, including Love a la Mode (1759), The School for Husbands, or The Married Libertine (1761), and The Man of the World (1781). The True-Born Irishman (1763) was a hit in Ireland and a flop in England. Macklin observed: "I believe the audience are right. There's a geography in humor as well as in morals, which I had not previously considered."

Macklin revolutionised acting in the 18th century by introducing a natural style of acting, being the first actor of his generation to break away from the old declamatory style that had been the norm for centuries. According to Edwin Wilson and Alvin Goldfarb in Living Theatre, "the predominant approach to acting in the 18th century is usually described as bombastic or declamatory, terms that suggest its emphasis on oratorical skills". Due to this emphasis on speaking, rehearsal time was short, stage movement was standardised, and actors often spoke directly to the audience rather than characters onstage. Wilson and Goldfarb go on to say that there were a few innovators who were "opposed to the emphasis on declamation, stereotypical positions of performers onstage, and singsong delivery of verse; they wanted to create individual characters, and they wanted to have more careful rehearsal procedures". As a performer, Macklin was confined to the mainstream practices of 18th century theatre companies, but through training young actors, he was able to put his ideas into practice.

The introduction of naturalistic acting by Macklin can best be seen in how he trained his students.[citation needed] Appleton states that "Macklin believed acting a science, founded upon nature. He stressed the importance of a thorough knowledge of one's role, of propriety of dress, and of attention to the business of the scene; the necessity of avoiding monotony of tone". It was not uncommon for Macklin to advise a student to unlearn all they had learned about acting. According to Appleton "Macklin made this the preliminary condition for all of his pupils. To hesitate was to be instantly dismissed. But once the condition had been agreed to, Macklin proved a dedicated teacher, willing to take infinite pains and often willing to instruct them for nothing". Most importantly, Macklin wanted his students to speak as they would in everyday life; basically transferring reality to the stage.

Appleton portrays how Macklin trained his students to do this: “In the garden of his Drumcondra, Dublin house, two of his pupils would stroll down two parallel walks while Macklin walked in the middle. They would walk for ten paces, and then exchange bits of conversation. They would repeat this many times until Macklin was satisfied in every particular”. In this way, Macklin drilled his students until they acquired an ease of speech and manner. To cope with projection in the theatres, Macklin would often recite from Milton's Paradise Lost or soliloquies from Macbeth or Othello, having his students to imitate him in clarity, speech, and volume. Appleton adds that "while he concentrated primarily on achieving clear and natural diction, he stressed as well the importance of mastering variety of tone and pause to indicate transitions of thought and associations of ideas". Macklin taught his students three fundamental pauses: moderate, longer, and grand. Each type of pause served an important function depending on the scene.

Macklin was one of the forerunners to stress the need to regularise rehearsals. Appleton states that "actors, compelled by the repertory system to know scores of parts, generally relied on conventional attitudes, gestures, and tones to carry them through a performance and felt little enthusiasm for this discipline. Sometimes they were absent from rehearsals. Often they arrived late, stumbled through their lines and drifted away". Macklin was not only concerned about his individual actors, but with the whole production, and so everyone had to come prepared and on time. This led to a relentless discipline unmatched in other students at the time. For the rest of his life, Macklin would continue to train his students with such intensity and passion and through them, make an important contribution to the English Theatre.

During the 1730s Macklin was involved in a relationship with an Irish actress. Full details about her are uncertain but her name was thought to be Ann Grace or Ann Grace Purvor. She did assume the name of Macklin although it is unlikely the pair ever married. Their daughter, Maria Macklin (1733–1781), also became a popular actress. Ann died on 28 December 1758 and he began an affair with his servant Elizabeth Jones, whose age matched that of his daughter. They were married on 13 February 1778.

Macklin lived a tempestuous life, often involved in lawsuits, sometimes acting as his own lawyer. In 1735 he quarrelled with a fellow actor named Thomas Hallam, whom he accidentally killed by thrusting his cane through Hallam's eye. The pair had argued over a wig whilst performing a new farce, Trick for Trick. The incident occurred in the Scene Room of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in front of many witnesses and Macklin, after the sudden fit of temper, was sorry and arranged for a physician to attend to Hallam. Unfortunately, the cane had pierced through Hallam's eye into his brain and he died one day later. Macklin was tried for murder, conducted his own defence and, though not acquitted, escaped with manslaughter. The punishment for manslaughter was the branding of a letter 'M' upon the hand, by this period not with a hot but with a cold iron, although there is no evidence that this was actually carried out on Macklin. In 1772 he sued the organizers of a riot among the theatergoers who had demanded that he be fired. He recovered £600, but graciously chose to accept instead the defendants' purchase of £100 in tickets at three benefits for himself, his daughter and the management.

 

* David Garrick *

Garrick was born at the Angel Inn, Widemarsh Street, Hereford in 1717 into a family with French Huguenot roots in the Languedoc region of Southern France. Garrick's grandfather, David Garric, was in Bordeaux in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was abolished, revoking the rights of Protestants in France. David Garric fled to London and his son, Peter, who was an infant at the time, was later smuggled out by a nurse when he was deemed old enough to make the journey. David Garric became a British subject upon his arrival in Britain and anglicised the name to Garrick. Some time after David Garrick's birth the family moved to Lichfield, home to Garrick's mother. His father, a captain in the army, was a recruiting officer stationed in Gibraltar through most of young Garrick's childhood.

Garrick was the third of seven children and his younger brother, George (1723–1779), would be an aide to David for the remainder of his life. The playwright and actor Charles Dibdin recorded that George, discovering his brother's absence would often inquire "Did David want me?" Upon Garrick's death in 1779, it was noted that George died 48 hours later, leading some to speculate that "David wanted him".

His nephew, Nathan Garrick, married Martha Leigh, daughter of Sir Egerton Leigh, Bart., and sister of Sir Samuel Egerton Leigh, author of Munster Abbey; a Romance: Interspersed with Reflections on Virtue and Morality (Edinburgh 1797).

At the age of 19, Garrick, who had been educated at Lichfield Grammar School, enrolled in Samuel Johnson's Edial Hall School. Garrick showed an enthusiasm for the theatre very early on and he appeared in a school production around this time in the role of Sergeant Kite in George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer. After Johnson's school was closed, he and Garrick, now friends, travelled to London together to seek their fortunes. Upon his arrival in 1737, Garrick and his brother became partners in a wine business with operations in both London and Lichfield with David taking the London operation. The business did not flourish, possibly due to Garrick's distraction by amateur theatricals. Playwright Samuel Foote remarked that he had known Garrick to have only three quarts of vinegar in his cellar and still calling himself a wine merchant.

In 1740, four years after Garrick's arrival in London and with his wine business failing, he saw his first play, a satire, Lethe: or Aesop in the Shade, produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Within a year he was appearing professionally playing small parts at the Goodman's Fields Theatre under the management of Henry Giffard. The Goodman's Fields Theatre had been shuttered by the Licensing Act of 1737 which closed all theatres that did not hold the letters patent and required all plays to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain before performance. Garrick's performances at the theatre were a result of Giffard's help with Garrick's wine business in winning the business of the Bedford Coffee-house, an establishment patronised by many theatrical and literary people and a location Garrick frequented.

He made his debut as a professional actor on a summer tour to Ipswich with Giffard's groupe in 1741, where he played Aboan in Oroonoko, a play by the British dramatist Aphra Behn. He appeared under the stage name Lyddal to avoid the consternation of his family. But, while he was successful under Giffard, the managers of Drury Lane and Covent Garden rejected him.

On 19 October 1741, Garrick appeared in the title role of Richard III. He had been coached in the role by the actor and playwright Charles Macklin and his natural performance, which rejected the declamatory acting style so prevalent in the period, soon was the talk of London. Of his performance at Goodman's Fields, Horace Walpole remarked, "there was a dozen dukes a night at Goodman's Fields". Following his rousing performance, Garrick wrote to his brother requesting withdrawal from the partnership to devote his time completely to the stage. Having found success with Richard III, Garrick moved onto a number of other roles including Tate's adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear and Pierre in Otway's Venice Preserv'd as well as comic roles such as Bayes in Buckingham's The Rehearsal; a total of 18 roles in all in just the first six months of his acting career. His success led Alexander Pope, who saw him perform three times during this period, to surmise, "that young man never had his equal as an actor, and he will never have a rival".

With his success at Goodman's Fields, Charles Fleetwood, manager of Drury Lane, engaged Garrick to play Chaumont in Otway's The Orphan (a role he first played in Ipswich) on 11 May 1742 while he used his letters patent to close down Giffard's theatre. That same month, Garrick played King Lear opposite Margaret "Peg" Woffington as Cordelia and his popular Richard III. With these successes, Fleetwood engaged Garrick for the full 1742–43 season.

At the end of the London season, Garrick, along with Peg Woffington, travelled to Dublin for the summer season at the Theatre Royal, Smock Lane. While in Dublin, Garrick added three new roles to his repertoire: Shakespeare's Hamlet, Abel Drugger in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist (a role that earned him much acclaim) and Captain Plume in Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer. Some of his success could be attributed to one of his earliest fans, John Boyle, 5th Earl of Cork, who wrote letters to many noblemen and gentlemen recommending Garrick's acting. His writings led Garrick to exclaim that it must have been the reason he was "more caressed" in Dublin.

Five years after joining the acting company at Drury Lane, Garrick again travelled to Dublin for a season where he managed and directed at the Smock Alley Theatre in conjunction with Thomas Sheridan, the father of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. After his return to London, he spent some time acting at Covent Garden under John Rich while a farce of his, Miss in Her Teens, was also produced there.

With the end of the 1746–1747 season, Fleetwoods' patent on Drury Lane expired in partnership with James Lacy, Garrick took over the theatre in April 1747. The theatre had been in a decline for some years, but the partnership of Garrick and Lacy led to success and accolades. The first performance under Garrick and Lacy's management opened with an Ode to Drury Lane Theatre, on dedicating a Building and erecting a Statue, to Shakespeare read by Garrick and written by his friend, Dr. Johnson. The ode promised the patrons that "The drama's law the drama's patrons give,/For we that live to please must please to live." Certainly this statement could be regarded as succinctly summing up Garrick's management at Drury Lane where he was able to balance both artistic integrity and the fickle tastes of the public.

After the Woffington affair there were a number of botched love affairs, including possibly fathering a son with Jane Green. Garrick met Eva Marie Veigel (1724–1822), a German dancer in opera choruses who emigrated to London in 1746. The pair wed on 22 June 1749 and were preserved together in several portraits, including one by William Hogarth. Hogarth also made several drawings and paintings of them separately. The union was childless but happy, Garrick calling her "the best of women and wives", and they were famously inseparable throughout their nearly 30 years of marriage. Garrick's increasing wealth enabled him to purchase a palatial estate for Eva Marie and himself to live in, naming it Garrick's Villa, that he bought at Hampton in 1754. He also indulged his passion for Shakespeare by building a Temple to Shakespeare on the riverside at Hampton to house his collection of memorabilia.

In September 1769 Garrick staged the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was a major focal point in the emerging movement that helped cement Shakespeare as England's national poet. It involved a number of events held in the town to celebrate (five years too late) 200 years since Shakespeare's birth. In a speech made on the second day of the Jubilee in Stratford Garrick recognized the Shakespeare Ladies Club as those who "restor'd Shakespeare to the Stage," protecting his fame and erecting "a Monument to his and your own honour in Westminster Abbey." No Shakespeare plays were performed during the Jubilee, and heavy rain forced a Shakespeare Pageant to be called off. The Pageant was first staged a month later at Drury Lane Theatre under the title The Jubilee and proved successful enjoying 90 performances. The song "Soft Flowing Avon" was composed by Thomas Arne, with lyrics by Garrick, for the Jubilee.

Garrick would manage the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, until his retirement from management in 1776. In his last years he continued to add roles to his repertoire; Posthumus in Cymbeline was among his last famous roles. He died less than three years after his retirement, at his house in Adelphi Buildings, London, and was interred in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Mrs. Garrick survived her husband by 43 years.

Shortly before his death he worked on the production of The Camp with Sheridan at Drury Lane and caught a very bad cold. The Camp was based around the British response to a threatened invasion by France, leading some to jokingly claim that Garrick was the only casualty of the ultimately abandoned invasion.

Perhaps it was Garrick's acting, the most showy of his careers, that brought him the most adulation. Garrick was not a large man, only standing 5'4", and his voice is not described as particularly loud. From his first performance, Garrick departed from the bombastic style that had been popular, choosing instead a more relaxed, naturalistic style that his biographer Alan Kendall states "would probably seem quite normal to us today, but it was new and strange for his day." Certainly this new style brought acclaim: Alexander Pope stated, "he was afraid the young man would be spoiled, for he would have no competitor." Garrick quotes George Lyttelton as complimenting him by saying, "He told me he never knew what acting was till I appeared." Even James Quin, an actor in the old style remarked, "If this young fellow be right, then we have been all wrong."

While Garrick's praises were being sung by many, there were some detractors. Theophilus Cibber in his Two Dissertations on the Theatres of 1756 believed that Garrick's realistic style went too far: 'His over-fondness for extravagant attitudes, frequently affected starts, convulsive twitchings, jerkings of the body, sprawling of the fingers, flapping the breast and pockets; a set of mechanical motions in constant use; the caricatures of gesture, suggested by pert vivacity; his pantomimical manner of acting, every word in a sentence, his unnatural pauses in the middle of a sentence; his forced conceits; his wilful neglect of harmony, even where the round period of a well-expressed noble sentiment demands a graceful cadence in the delivery.'

But Garrick's legacy was perhaps best summarised by the historian Rev Nicolas Tindal when he said that: "The 'deaf' hear him in his 'action, and the 'blind' see him in his 'voice'."

* Edmund Kean *

Kean was born in Westminster, London. His father was probably Edmund Kean, an architect’s clerk, and his mother was an actress, Anne Carey, daughter of the 18th-century composer and playwright Henry Carey.

Kean made his first appearance on the stage, aged four, as Cupid in Jean-Georges Noverre’s ballet of Cymon. As a child his vivacity, cleverness and ready affection made him a universal favorite, but his harsh circumstances and lack of discipline, both helped develop self-reliance and fostered wayward tendencies. About 1794 a few benevolent persons paid for him to go to school, where he did well; but finding the restraint intolerable, he shipped as a cabin boy at Portsmouth. Finding life at sea even more restricting, he pretended to be both deaf and lame so skilfully that he deceived the doctors at Madeira.

On his return to England, he sought the protection of his uncle, Moses Kean, a mimic, ventriloquist and general entertainer, who, besides continuing his pantomimic studies, introduced him to the study of Shakespeare. At the same time, Miss Charlotte Tidswell, an actress who had been especially kind to him from infancy, taught him the principles of acting.

On the death of his uncle, she took charge of him, and he began the systematic study of the principal Shakespearean characters, displaying the peculiar originality of his genius by interpretations entirely different from those of John Philip Kemble, then considered the great exponent of these roles. Kean’s talents and interesting countenance caused a Mrs Clarke to adopt him, but he took offense at the comments of a visitor and suddenly left her house and went back to his old surroundings. Aged fourteen, he obtained an engagement to play leading characters for twenty nights in the York Theatre, appearing as Hamlet, Hastings and Cato.

Shortly afterwards, while he was in Richardson's Theatre, a travelling theatre company, the rumor of his abilities reached George III, who commanded him to appear at Windsor Castle. He subsequently joined Saunders’s circus, where in the performance of an equestrian feat he fell and broke both legs — the accident leaving traces of swelling in his insteps throughout his life.

About this time, he picked up music from Charles Incledon, dancing from D’Egville, and fencing from Angelo. In 1807, he played leading parts in the Belfast theater with Sarah Siddons, who began by calling him "a horrid little man" and on further experience of his ability said that he "played very, very well," but that "there was too little of him to make a great actor." In 1808, he joined Samuel Butler’s provincial troupe and went on to marry Mary Chambers of Waterford, the leading actress, on 17 July. His wife gave birth to two sons, one of whom was actor Charles Kean.

For several years, his prospects were very gloomy, but in 1814, the committee of Drury Lane Theatre, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, resolved to give him a chance among the "experiments" they were making to win a return of popularity. When the expectation of his first appearance in London was close upon him, he was so feverish that he exclaimed, "If I succeed I shall go mad." Unable to afford medical treatment for some time, his elder son died the day after he signed the three-year Drury Lane contract.

His opening at Drury Lane on 26 January 1814 as Shylock roused the audience to almost uncontrollable enthusiasm. Contemporaries recognized that Kean had brought dignity and humanity to his portrayal of the character. Jane Austen refers to his popularity in a letter to her sister Cassandra dated 2 March 1814: "Places are secured at Drury Lane for Saturday, but so great is the rage for seeing Kean that only a third and fourth row could be got". Successive appearances in Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear demonstrated his mastery of the range of tragic emotion. His triumph was so great that he himself said on one occasion, "I could not feel the stage under me."

In 1817, a local playwright named Charles Bucke submitted his play The Italians, or; The Fatal Accusation to Drury Lane, for which Kean was to play the lead. The play was well received by both council and actors until Kean seemed to have a change of heart and began to make several offhand remarks that his part was not big enough for him. Then, after a performance where Kean went out of his way to botch the opening night of Switzerland by historical novelist Jane Porter in February 1819, for whom Kean had had a personal dislike, Bucke pulled the play out of contempt for Kean's conduct. After much cajoling to still perform the play by the theater staff, Mr. Bucke then later had it republished with a preface concerning the incident, including excerpts from correspondences between the involved parties, which was later challenged in two books, The Assailant Assailed and A Defense of Edmund Kean, Esq. The result was loss of face on both sides and the play being performed anyway on 3 April 1819 to a disastrous reception thanks to the controversy already surrounding the play and Kean's previous conduct.

On 29 November 1820, Kean appeared for the first time in New York City, as Richard III. The success of his visit to America was unequivocal, although he fell into a vexatious dispute with the press. In 1821, he appeared in Boston with Mary Ann Duff in The Distrest Mother, by Ambrose Philips, an adaptation of Racine's Andromaque. On 4 June 1821, he returned to England.

Kean was the first to restore the tragic ending to Shakespeare's King Lear, which had been replaced on stage since 1681 by Nahum Tate's happy ending adaptation The History of King Lear. Kean had previously acted Tate's Lear, but told his wife that the London audience "have no notion of what I can do till they see me over the dead body of Cordelia." Kean played the tragic Lear for a few performances. They were not well received, though one critic described his dying scene as "deeply affecting", and with regret, he reverted to Tate.

Kean's lifestyle became a hindrance to his career. As a result of his relationship with Charlotte Cox, the wife of a London city alderman, Kean was sued by Mr Cox for damages for criminal conversation (adultery). Damages of £800 were awarded against him by a jury that had deliberated for just 10 minutes. The Times launched a violent attack on him. The adverse decision in the criminal conversation case of Cox v. Kean on 17 January 1825 caused his wife to leave him, and aroused against him such bitter feeling that he was booed and pelted with fruit when he re-appeared at Drury Lane and nearly compelled to retire permanently into private life. For many years, he lived at Keydell House, Horndean.

He returned to England from his second American visit and was ultimately received with favour, but by now he was so dependent on the use of stimulants that the gradual deterioration of his gifts was inevitable. Still, his great powers triumphed during the moments of his inspiration over the absolute wreck of his physical faculties. His appearance in Paris was a failure owing to a fit of drunkenness.

His last appearance on the stage was at Covent Garden on 15 March 1833, when he played Othello to the Iago of his son, Charles Kean, who was also an accomplished actor. At the words "Villain, be sure," in scene 3 of act iii, he suddenly broke down, and crying in a faltering voice "O God, I am dying. Speak to them, Charles," fell insensible into his son’s arms. He died in Surrey in 1833, and is commemorated in the Parish Church where there is a floor plaque marking his grave and a wall plaque originally on the outside but moved inside and heavily restored during restoration work in 1904. He is buried in the parish church of All Saints, in the village of Catherington, Hampshire. His last words were alleged to have been "dying is easy; comedy is hard."

It was in the impersonation of the great creations of Shakespeare’s genius that the varied beauty and grandeur of the acting of Kean were displayed in their highest form, although probably his most powerful character was Sir Giles Overreach in Philip Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts, the effect of his first performance of which was such that the pit rose en masse, and even the actors and actresses themselves were overcome by the terrific dramatic illusion. His main disadvantage as an actor was his small stature. Coleridge said, "Seeing him act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning."

*–*

Venue Access Information. Email: access@seetickets.com

Access into the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane: 6 steps up to the front entrance through swing doors into the main foyer and Box Office. Box Office counter is to the right. 20 steps down then 17 up to the Stalls with handrails on both sides, 39 steps to the Dress Circle with a handrail on the right, 61 steps to the Upper Circle with a handrail on both sides. Top stair of each group is highlighted.

Wheelchair access. Please contact the Theatre Manager on arrival. Entrance to theatre through signposted door on Russell Street which leads into the left of the Stalls. The door has a bell on the outside. Four spaces for wheelchairs users, L1 and 35 and K1 and 35, companions can sit in the same row. Transfer seating to aisle seats, wheelchairs can be stored in the Stalls store room (maximum of two scooter transferees).Stair lift also available (transfer).

Disabled toilets. There is an adapted toilet to the left inside the Russell Street entrance, beside the Stalls. Toilets. No steps to Men’s from Stalls. Further toilets at the Stalls and Grand Circle.

Leg room. All of row K and C1, C29, D1 & D33 in the Stalls have the most leg room. Drinks. All drinks can be brought to disabled customers in the auditorium. Stalls bar is 17 steps down from the Stalls – some seating, fairly large. Further bars at Dress Circle, Upper Circle and Balcony.

Induction loop. Infra-red system with headsets. Induction loop at Box Office. Headsets available in the foyer. Access dogs. Access dogs are allowed inside the auditorium. Staff can also dog-sit for four dogs per performance in the Manager’s office.

Parking. Single yellow lines on Russell Street. NCP in Drury Lane. Taxi rank at Covent Garden Piazza end of Russell Street (under the New London Theatre). If you are planning to drive into the city we recommend that you take advantage of Q-Park’s Theatreland Parking Scheme – simply have your car park ticket validated at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the 50% discount will automatically be applied when you pay at the car park pay machine. Find out more on the Q-Park website. The £10 daily congestion charge for central London applies from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

Westminster City Council has remodelled existing kerb and road space at the base of Kingsway to create 24x coach bays within metres of Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Coaches will be charged at £4 p/h to use the Kingsway bays, 10am-4pm and 7pm to midnight. There will be a four hour maximum stay. Between 7am-9pm, Café Amici offers 20% discount for drivers who have parked in the new coach park and show a valid driver's card.

 

Location : Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, London WC2B 5JF

Transport: Rail : Charing Cross (National Rail) then 14 minutes. Underground: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line) then 6 minutes. London Buses routes : 1, 4, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 59, 68, 76, 91, 139, 168, 171, 176, 188, 243, 341 and 521 stop close by.

What's On

Seating Plan.

Access Line : 020 7087 7966

Tel: 020 7087 7760