The Theatre Royal Haymarket (also known as Haymarket Theatre or the Little Theatre) is a West End theatre in the Haymarket in the City of Westminster which dates back to 1720, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use. Samuel Foote acquired the lease in 1747, and in 1766 he gained a royal patent to play legitimate drama (meaning spoken drama, as opposed to opera, concerts or plays with music) in the summer months. The original building was a little further north in the same street. It has been at its current location since 1821, when it was redesigned by John Nash. It is a Grade I listed building, with a seating capacity of 888. The freehold of the theatre is owned by the Crown Estate.
The Haymarket has been the site of a significant innovation in theatre. In 1873, it was the venue for the first scheduled matinée performance, establishing a custom soon followed in theatres everywhere. Its managers have included Benjamin Nottingham Webster, John Baldwin Buckstone, Squire Bancroft, Cyril Maude, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and John Sleeper Clarke, brother-in-law of John Wilkes Booth, who quit America after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Famous actors who débuted at the theatre included Robert William Elliston (1774–1831) and John Liston (1776–1846).
* Origins and early years *
The First Haymarket Theatre or Little Theatre was built in 1720 by John Potter, carpenter, on the site of The King's Head Inn in the Haymarket and a shop in Suffolk Street kept by Isaac Bliburgh, a gunsmith, and known by the sign of the Cannon and Musket. It was the third public theatre opened in the West End. The theatre cost £1000 to build, with a further £500 expended on decorations, scenery and costumes. It opened on 29 December 1720, with a French play La Fille a la Morte, ou le Badeaut de Paris performed by a company later known as 'The French Comedians of His Grace the Duke of Montague'. Potter's speculation was known as The New French Theatre.
The theatre's first major success was a 1729 production of a play by Samuel Johnson of Cheshire, Hurlothrumbo, or The Supernatural, which ran for 30 nights – not as long as John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (62 performances), but still a long run for the time. In 1730, the theatre was taken over by an English company, and its name changed to the 'Little Theatre in the Haymarket'. Among the actors who appeared there before 1737 when the theatre was closed under the Licensing Act 1737 were Aaron Hill, Theophilus Cibber, and Henry Fielding. In the eight to ten years before the Act was passed, the Haymarket was an alternative to John Rich's Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and the opera-dominated Drury Lane Theatre. Fielding himself was responsible for the instigation of the Act, having produced a play called The Historical Register that parodied prime minister Robert Walpole, as the caricature, Quidam.
In particular, it was an alternative to the pantomime and special-effects dominated stages, and it presented opposition (Tory party) satire. Henry Fielding staged his plays at the Haymarket, and so did Henry Carey. Hurlothrumbo was just one of his plays in that series of anti-Walpolean satires, followed by Tom Thumb. Another, in 1734, was his mock-opera, The Dragon of Wantley, with music by John Frederick Lampe. This work punctured the vacuous operatic conventions and pointed a satirical barb at Walpole and his taxation policies. The piece was a huge success, with a record-setting run of 69 performances in its first season. The work debuted at the Haymarket Theatre, where its coded attack on Walpole would have been clear, but its long run occurred after it moved to Covent Garden, which had a much greater capacity for staging. The burlesque itself is very brief on the page, as it relied extensively on absurd theatrics, dances, and other non-textual entertainments.
Carey continued with Pasquin and others. Additionally, refugees from Drury Lane's and Covent Garden's internal struggles would show up at the Haymarket, and thus Charlotte Charke would act there in a parody of her father, Colley Cibber, one of the owners and managers of Drury Lane. The Theatrical Licensing Act, however, put an end to the anti-ministry satires, and it all but entirely shut down the theatre. From 1741 to 1747, Charles Macklin, Cibber, Samuel Foote, and others sometimes produced plays there either by use of a temporary licence or by subterfuge; one advertisement runs, "At Cibber's Academy in the Haymarket, will be a Concert, after which, will be exhibited (gratis) a Rehearsal, in the form of a Play, called Romeo and Juliet."
In 1749 a hoaxer billed as The Bottle Conjuror was advertised to appear at the theatre. The conjuror's publicity claimed that, while on stage, he would place his body inside an empty wine bottle, in full view of the audience. When the advertised act failed to appear on stage, the audience rioted and gutted the theatre. Although the identity of the hoax's perpetrator is unknown, several authors consider John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu, to have been responsible.
* London's third patent theatre *
In 1754, John Potter, who had been rated (i.e. paid property tax) for the theatre since its opening, was succeeded by John Whitehead. In 1758 Theophilus Cibber obtained from William Howard, then the Lord Chamberlain, a general licence under which Foote tried to establish the Haymarket as a regular theatre. With the aid of the Duke of York he procured a royal licence to exhibit plays during four months in each year from May to September during his lifetime. He also bought the lease of the theatre from Potter's executors and, having added to the site by purchasing adjoining property, he enlarged and improved the building which he opened on 14 May 1767, as the Theatre Royal, the third patent theatre in London. Several successful seasons followed, with Foote producing numerous plays at the theatre, but Foote finally got himself into difficulties for his custom of caricaturing well-known persons on the stage and this, combined with increasing ill-health, resulted in his selling both the theatre and patent to George Colman, Sr. on 16 January 1777.
During the season of 1793–94 when Drury Lane Theatre was being rebuilt, the Haymarket was opened under the Drury Lane Patent. The season was notable for a 'Dreadful Accident' which occurred on 3 February 1794, 'when Twenty Persons unfortunately lost their lives, and a great Number were dreadfully bruised owing to a great Crowd pressing to see his Majesty, who was that Evening present at the Performance.' Amongst the dead was John Charles Brooke, Somerset Herald.
Colman died in 1794, and the theatre descended to his son. George Colman Jr., though successful both as playwright and manager, dissipated his gains by his extravagance. For a time he lived in a room at the back of the theatre and he was finally forced to sell shares in the latter to his brother-in-law, David Morris. Monetary difficulties increased and for a while Colman managed the theatre from the King's Bench Prison, where he was confined for debt.
All the buildings on the east of the Haymarket from the theatre southward were rebuilt circa 1820 in connection with John Nash's schemes for the improvement of the neighbourhood. Nash persuaded the proprietors of the theatre to rebuild on a site a little south of the old one so that the portico should close the vista from Charles Street. The main front feature of Nash's elevation in the Haymarket was (and is) a pedimented portico of six Corinthian columns which extends in depth to the edge of the pavement and includes the whole frontage. It is sometimes stated that Nash rebuilt the theatre entirely, but there is evidence that he incorporated a house in Little Suffolk Street with the theatre, removed two shops which were in front, in the Haymarket, built a portico, increased the number of avenues and added a second gallery to the existing auditorium.
A lease dated 10 June 1821, was granted to David Edward Morris. The theatre was opened on 4 July 1821, with The Rivals. Benjamin Nottingham Webster became the theatre's manager from 1837 to 1853. He and his successor, John Baldwin Buckstone, established the theatre as a great comedy house, and the theatre hosted most of the great actors of the period. The illusionist Ching Lau Lauro performed here on 25 July 1827.
* Latter Half of the 19th Century *
In 1862, the theatre was host to a 400-night run of Our American Cousin, with Edward Sothern as Lord Dundreary. The play's success brought the word "dreary" into common use. Robertson's David Garrick was a hit in 1864, also with Sothern in the title role. Sothern also starred in H. J. Byron's An English Gentleman at the theatre in 1871. W. S. Gilbert premiered seven of his plays at the Haymarket. The first was his early burlesque, Robinson Crusoe; or, The Injun Bride and the Injured Wife (1867, written with Byron, Tom Hood, H. S. Leigh and Arthur Sketchley).
Gilbert followed this with a number of his blank verse "fairy comedies", the first of which was The Palace of Truth (1870), produced by Buckstone. These starred William Hunter Kendal and his wife Madge Robertson Kendal and also included Pygmalion and Galatea (1871), and The Wicked World (1873). Gilbert also produced here his dramas, Charity (1874), Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith (1876), and his most famous play outside of his Savoy Operas, Engaged, an 1877 farce. Buckstone's ghost has reportedly often been seen at the theatre, particularly during comedies and "when he appreciates things" playing there. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that the actor Patrick Stewart saw the ghost standing in the wings during a performance of Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket.
In 1873, scheduled matinées were introduced, for the first time in London, starting at 2.00 pm. In May 1875, Sullivan's The Zoo transferred to the Haymarket. Engaged, Gilbert's most famous play outside of his works with Sullivan, premièred at the Haymarket in 1877. In 1879 the house was taken over by the Bancrofts, who re-opened the theatre with a revival of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Money, followed by Victorien Sardou's Odette (for which they engaged Madame Helena Modjeska) and Fedora, and Arthur Wing Pinero's Lords and Commons, with other revivals of previous successes. The auditorium was reconstructed, and the stage enclosed in a complete picture frame proscenium, the first in London. The abolition of the pit by the introduction of stalls seating divided by plain iron arms caused a small riot.
Herbert Beerbohm Tree transferred from the Comedy Theatre with The Red Lamp in 1887. He took over upon the retirement of the Bancrofts and installed electric light in the theatre. Under Tree's management, Oscar Wilde premiered his first comedy A Woman of No Importance in April 1893. In January 1895 Wilde's An Ideal Husband was first performed. Tree's next notable hit was George du Maurier's Trilby, later in 1895. This ran for over 260 performances and made such profits that Tree was able to build Her Majesty's Theatre and establish RADA.
In 1896 Cyril Maude and Frederick Harrison became lessees, opening with Under the Red Robe, an adaptation of Stanley Wyman's novel. In 1897 The Little Minister by J. M. Barrie ran for 320 performances.
* The 20th century *
In 1904, the auditorium was redesigned in Louis XVI style by C. Stanley Peach. The following year, Maude acquired the Playhouse Theatre by Charing Cross Station, leaving Harrison in sole control. In 1909, Herbert Trench produced Maurice Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird. Productions from then to the end of World War I included Bunty Pulls the Strings (1911), a Scottish comedy by Graham Moffat, which ran for 617 performances with Jimmy Finlayson in the lead; Ibsen's Ghosts (1914); Elegant Edward, with Henry Daniell as P. C. Hodson (1915); The Widow's Might (1916), a comedy by Leonard Huskinson and Christopher Sandeman, with Henry Daniell; and General Post, a comedy by J. E. Harold Terry, which opened on 14 March 1917 and ran for 532 performances, again with Daniell.
In 1920, J. M. Barrie's Mary Rose had a run of 399 performances. Another long-running production was Yellow Sands, in which Ralph Richardson gave 610 performances in 1926–27. In 1926 Harrison died, and Horace Watson became the theatre's General Manager. His presentations included 632 performances of The First Mrs Fraser, by St. John Ervine, starring Marie Tempest in 1929. In 1939, under Watson's management, work began on excavating a stalls bar, but it was not completed until 1941 owing to the outbreak of World War II. Wartime presentations included the London premiere of Noël Coward's Design for Living (1939) and John Gielgud's repertory season of The Circle (Somerset Maugham), Love for Love (Congreve), Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Duchess of Malfi.
In 1940, Gielgud directed The Beggar's Opera, with Michael Redgrave as Macheath. In 1945, two Coward plays, Present Laughter and This Happy Breed, alternated. They were followed by Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest in 1948, and Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie directed by Gielgud, starring Helen Hayes; and The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, directed by Gielgud and starring Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft, who was succeeded by Wendy Hiller (1949–50).
In 1951–52 Waters of the Moon by N. C. Hunter starred Sybil Thorndike, Edith Evans and Wendy Hiller. For the Coronation season in 1953, Coward gave a rare performance in a play not written by him, The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw, with Margaret Leighton as his co-star. To Coward, the Haymarket was "the most perfect theatre in the world". In 1956, Stuart Watson, who had taken over management of the theatre from his father Horace, died and was succeeded by his son Anthony, and then his daughter-in-law Sylva Stuart Watson, who took over in 1963.
Productions under the new management included Flowering Cherry by Robert Bolt (1957) starring Ralph Richardson and Celia Johnson; Ross by Terence Rattigan (1960) and John Gielgud's production of The School for Scandal, with Ralph Richardson and Margaret Rutherford. In the 1960s, notable presentations included The Tulip Bee by N. C. Hunter starring Celia Johnson and John Clements and Thornton Wilder's Ides of March directed by Gielgud (both 1963).
In 1971, Louis I. Michaels became the lessee of the theatre. Productions of the decade included a revival of Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden, with Gladys Cooper (1971, which had played at the Haymarket in 1955-56); the long-running A Voyage Round My Father (John Mortimer) starring Alec Guinness, succeeded by Michael Redgrave (1971–72); and, in 1972, Crown Matrimonial by Royce Ryton, starring Wendy Hiller as Queen Mary. Later productions included a revival of On Approval (Frederick Lonsdale) with Geraldine McEwan and Edward Woodward (1975); The Circle, with Googie Withers and John McCallum (1976); Rosmersholm (Ibsen) with Claire Bloom and Daniel Massey (1977); The Millionairess (Shaw), with Penelope Keith; Waters of the Moon again, starring Hiller and Ingrid Bergman in her last stage role (both 1978); and Keith Michell and Susan Hampshire in The Crucifer of Blood (1979).
The theatre then presented Make and Break (Michael Frayn), with Leonard Rossiter and Prunella Scales (1980). The following year, Louis Michaels died, and the theatre passed to a company, Louis I Michaels Ltd, with President, Enid Chanelle and Chairman, Arnold M Crook, which continued to own the theatre for decades. They presented Overheard, by Peter Ustinov; and Virginia, with Maggie Smith (1981). In 1982, the Haymarket staged a repertory season including Hobson's Choice, starring Penelope Keith; Captain Brassbound's Conversion (Shaw); Uncle Vanya (Chekhov); Rules of the Game (Luigi Pirandello); and Man and Superman (Shaw), starring Peter O'Toole. In 1983, productions included The School for Scandal, starring Donald Sinden; Heartbreak House (Shaw), starring Rex Harrison; Ben Kingsley in a one-man show about Edmund Kean; A Patriot for Me (John Osborne); The Cherry Orchard (Chekhov); and The Sleeping Prince (Terence Rattigan).
Productions in 1984 were The Aspern Papers by Henry James, starring Christopher Reeve, Vanessa Redgrave and Wendy Hiller; Aren't We All? (Frederick Lonsdale) starring Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert; and The Way of the World (Congreve). In 1985, Lauren Bacall starred in Sweet Bird of Youth (Tennessee Williams), followed by Harold Pinter's Old Times. In 1986 the theatre presented Antony and Cleopatra, starring Vanessa Redgrave; Breaking the Code (Hugh Whitemore), starring Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing; Long Day's Journey into Night, starring Jack Lemmon; and The Apple Cart, starring Peter O'Toole.
In 1988, another Tennessee Williams play, Orpheus Descending, starred Vanessa Redgrave. Later productions that year were You Never Can Tell (Shaw); The Deep Blue Sea (Rattigan); and The Admirable Crichton (J. M. Barrie). The 1980s ended at the Haymarket with Veterans' Day (Donald Freed) and A Life in the Theatre (David Mamet). In 1990, the Haymarket revived London Assurance (Dion Boucicault). The next year's plays included Jean Anouilh's Becket, starring Derek Jacobi and Robert Lindsay. Lindsay also starred in a revival of Cyrano de Bergerac in 1992. This was succeeded by new productions of Heartbreak House with Vanessa Redgrave and A Woman of No Importance.
In 1994 the theatre closed for a £1.3 million refurbishment, re-opening later that year with a revival of An Evening with Peter Ustinov, followed by Arcadia (Tom Stoppard). Burning Blue (1995), a new play by the first time playwright David Greer, was followed by the veteran director Peter Hall's revival of Ibsen's The Master Builder, starring Alan Bates. Hall also directed the 1996 An Ideal Husband (Oscar Wilde) 100 years after its première at the Haymarket; the new production featured Martin Shaw as Lord Goring. There is a memorial plaque to Wilde at the theatre.
Another production of 1996 was Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Hall was in charge again for the 1997 production of A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams), starring Jessica Lange; Lady Windermere's Fan; and An Ideal Husband (returning after touring). The last production of that year was A Delicate Balance (Edward Albee), starring Maggie Smith, John Standing, Annette Crosbie and Eileen Atkins.
In 1998, Shakespeare's Villains a one-man play, created and performed by Steven Berkoff at the theatre was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. Later that year, Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love, starring John Wood, transferred from the National Theatre. In 1999, Fascinating Aïda's comic revue was followed by Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue, with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason; Love Letters, by A. R. Gurney, with Charlton Heston and a transfer of the Chichester Festival's The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Patricia Routledge.
* The 21st Century *
Productions at the Haymarket in this century have included The Royal Family by Edna Ferber, starring Judi Dench (2001), Lady Windermere's Fan, directed by Peter Hall, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson (2002), and Dench appeared on stage together with Maggie Smith for the first time in over 40 years in The Breath of Life by David Hare (2002). Productions in 2003 included Ibsen's Brand, directed by Adrian Noble, starring Ralph Fiennes and A Woman of No Importance, with Rupert Graves, Samantha Bond and Prunella Scales, also directed by Noble. In 2004, the theatre presented a stage adaptation of the film, When Harry Met Sally, starring Luke Perry and Alyson Hannigan, during which the house closed for two nights after bits of the ceiling fell during a performance injuring fifteen people.
2005 productions included Victoria Wood's Acorn Antiques The Musical, starring Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston, directed by Trevor Nunn and A Few Good Men, starring Rob Lowe, Suranne Jones and Jack Ellis. 2006 featured three revivals: A Man for All Seasons, starring Martin Shaw; Coward's Hay Fever, with Judi Dench and Peter Bowles; and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, starring Dave Willetts and Shona Lindsay. The last production of that year was Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, starring Claire Bloom and Billy Zane. The first production of 2007 was Pinter's People, a compilation of Harold Pinter sketches of the past 40 years; later productions of that year were The Lady from Dubuque (Albee), starring Maggie Smith; David Suchet in The Last Confession; and The Country Wife, starring Toby Stephens, Patricia Hodge and David Haig.
In 2008, productions were The Sea (Bond), starring David Haig, Eileen Atkins and Russell Tovey; Marguerite, a new musical starring Ruthie Henshall and Alexander Hanson; and Keith Allen in an adaptation of Treasure Island. The following year, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup starred in Waiting for Godot, followed by Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring Anna Friel, Joseph Cross, James Dreyfus and Suzanne Bertish.
Godot and Tiffany's were featured, along with the staff and history of the Haymarket Theatre itself, in a 2009 eight-part Sky Arts documentary, Theatreland. In 2010 Waiting for Godot was repeated with McKellen, Roger Rees, Matthew Kelly and Pickup, followed by a transfer of Sweet Charity from the Menier Chocolate Factory. The next show was The Rivals starring Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles.
Trevor Nunn became Artistic Director 2011, producing a revival of Flare Path, as part of the playwright Terence Rattigan's centenary year celebrations, starring Sienna Miller, James Purefoy and Sheridan Smith; the Chichester Festival Theatre's revival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard; Ralph Fiennes as Prospero in The Tempest; and, over the Christmas/New Year season, Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley in The Lion in Winter. For two years from March 2012, the Haymarket hosted the National Theatre production One Man, Two Guvnors, which transferred from the Adelphi Theatre. The theatre was one of the 40 theatres featured in the 2012 DVD documentary series Great West End Theatres, presented by Donald Sinden.
In 2014, a stage adaptation of the film Fatal Attraction, directed by Nunn, premiered at the theatre, and Maureen Lipman and Harry Shearer starred in Daytona. The following year Penelope Wilton starred in Taken At Midnight, a transfer from the Minerva Theatre, Chichester. This was followed by Harvey, starring James Dreyfus and Maureen Lipman, and The Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper. McQueen, starring Stephen Wight, then transferred from the St. James Theatre. Mr Foote's Other Leg, starred Simon Russell Beale as Samuel Foote.
Productions in 2016 included a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves, starring Nicholas Le Prevost, Jenny Seagrove, Tamzin Outhwaite and Jason Merrells, and Pixie Lott made her debut at the Haymarket as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. In December the Royal Shakespeare Company took up residence at the Haymarket with a double bill of Love's Labour's Lost and Much Ado About Nothing. In 2017, Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo starred in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? from March to June. The RSC then returned to the theatre with Queen Anne. Natalie Dormer and David Oakes then starred in Venus in Fur. In 2018, Suranne Jones, Jason Watkins and Nina Sosanya are set to star in a revival of Frozen, a play by Bryony Lavery.
* Masterclass *
In 1998 the theatre founded Masterclass, a charity that offers creative opportunities and performing experiences to young people pursuing careers in the performing arts. Its activities include, in addition to masterclasses, apprenticeships in directing and theatre design, workshop productions, and theatre career fairs. The masterclasses cover a range of disciplines, from acting and directing to writing, producing and design, and give young people the chance to learn directly from leading practitioners working in theatre, film and television. As of 2018, coming up to 100,000 young people between the ages of 17 and 30 had participated in the masterclasses.
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* The First Theatre - 1720 *
The First Theatre on the site was built by a carpenter called John Potter on the site of an old Inn called the King's Head but the Theatre was not allowed to open because of the 'Patent Theatres' rule. It was used by amateurs and 'resting' Patent Theatre actors for a while until Potter managed to gain the patronage of the Duke of Montague, and finally open the Theatre properly in December 1720. He opened it with a French company which was sponsored by his new Patron the Duke of Montague. Unfortunately this was not a success and closed in May of the following year, but undeterred Potter let the Theatre to anyone who thought they could fill it.
The Theatre had a few successes over the following years, namely 'The Supernatural' and 'Tom Thumb' but it was often closed too. When Henry Fielding took over the management of the Theatre with his 'Great Mogul's Company of Comedians' he put on a series of ever cruder pieces which eventually led to the censorship laws being introduced in 1737.
All this time the Theatre had been running without a Patent but in July 1766, whilst Samual Foote, an actor himself, was running the Theatre, he was granted a Patent by the Duke of York, allowing him to open it in the summer whilst the other Patent Theatres were closed. This Patent came about after Foote had injured his leg after being persuaded to ride an unrideable horse on stage by guests of Lord Mexborough. His leg had to be amputated afterwards and the Patent was granted as a way of appeasing him on the 12th of July 1766.
In 1777 George Coleman took over the Theatre, still with Foote's Patent, and enhanced the building by adding a third tier of boxes and re-roofing the Theatre. Coleman's son took over in 1794 and between then and 1803 many actors who later became famous trod the boards at the Theatre Royal including Charles Kemble, John Liston, and John Bannister. This first Haymarket Theatre was closed and dismantled when a new and improved Theatre, designed by John Nash, and still there today, was constructed and opened next door in 1821.
* The Second and Present Theatre Royal, Haymarket - 1821 *
The Second, and present Theatre, which was built slightly to the south of the first Theatre, opened on the 4th of July 1821 with a production of Sheridan's 'The Rivals.' The Theatre was designed by John Nash and constructed at a cost of £20,000. The earlier Theatre remained beside the new one for a while until it was converted into shops, then it was converted into the Pall Mall Restaurant, and then finally demolished completely between the wars.
The exterior of this 1821 Theatre remains today but the interior was not generally liked and has been altered many times. However, the new Theatre Royal was a success, one production 'Cherry Ripe' ran for 114 performances, which was a long run for the period, another caused a sensation when a woman was employed to play the part of Falstaff in 'the Merry Wives Of Windsor' Julia Glover had previously also played Hamlet in 1821 at the Lyceum Theatre. Phelps first appeared there in 1837, and Macready in 1840, and by 1843 the Theatre was so successful that it was apparently acknowledged as 'being the equal of Drury Lane.'
T. C. King, the future father in law to Arthur Lloyd, and a well known and highly respected Tragedian in his day, made his first London appearance, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, for a one night special when he appeared as Shylock in 'The Merchant of Venice' there on Thursday the 22nd of July 1852. That same evening another new actor made his first appearance on any stage, at the same Theatre, namely J. L. Toole who appeared there in 'The Spitalfield's Weaver'.
The interior of the present Theatre has been altered many times, the first being in 1838 when the auditorium was redecorated and new boxes and other facilities were added. The Morning Post reported on the changes in their 9th of April 1838 edition saying:- 'This Theatre will open for the Season on Easter Monday. The Patrons of this popular place of amusement are respectfully informed that during the recess the interior has been decorated and painted in a costly and elegant style, every portion of ornament and covering being entirely new after the most approved fashions of the time of Louis Quatorze.
The Private Boxes (four of which are new) are tastefully draperied with silk, and so altered and arranged as to allow of every visitor to them seeing and hearing with advantage. The cushions and chairs of the Boxes have been covered with damask, and the hand-rests with the richest silk tubaret. Splendid new Chandeliers have been introduced in the audience part and in the lobbies. The Box Saloon is elaborately fitted up, and a new Pit Saloon has been built for the accommodation and comfort of the numerous and respectable frequenters of the Pit of this Theatre.
A new Curtain and a new Act Drop and Proscenium has been painted in a highly-finished manner, to accord with the architecture and decorations of the house. The whole designed and executed by Mr. Danson. The Lessee deems it necessary to inform the Public that the whole of the Chandeliers are lighted with Wax, which is considered more adapted to the comfort and health, as well as conducive to the better appearance, of the audience than Gas.' - The Morning Post, 9th of April 1838.
In 1843 Gas Lighting was installed in the Theatre rather than by candles or wax, and the forstage was removed and the proscenium altered. 1863 saw the proscenium altered further, 1848 saw seat backs being added to the circle, 1853 saw alterations FOH and Backstage, and in 1855 the Theatre changed its name to the simpler Theatre Royal Haymarket.
A fifteen year old Ellen Terry performed there in 1863 in a production celebrating the Eastern tour of the Prince of Wales, and in 1873 matinees were introduced, an afternoon performance beginning at 2pm which had first begun at the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand and has been the bane of Actors and crew alike ever since, although audiences naturally approve.
In 1879 the Bancrofts , who had previously been resident at the Prince Of Wales Theatre, took over the Theatre Royal Haymarket and began some serious rebuilding. C. J. Phipps was the architect responsible for the alterations which included completely remodeling the auditorium, removing the Pit and replacing it with Stalls, adding a new Circle, and completely enclosing the stage with a new four sided proscenium, making this the first 'Picture Framed' stage anywhere. The alterations commenced on the 1st of October 1879 and the Theatre reopened on the 31st of January 1880.
Beerbohm Tree took over the Haymarket in 1887 and had the Theatre redecorated and altered again, once more by the well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps. Phipps reinstated the Pit which he had removed in 1879, extended the Balcony and Gallery, and had electric light installed in the auditorium. The Theatre reopened on the 15th of September 1887 with Beerbohm Tree's production of 'The Red Lamp' and 'The Ballad Monger' in which he also acted.
Beerbohm Tree ran the Theatre until he moved across the street to his newly built Her Majesty's Theatre in 1896, and opened that Theatre in April 1897. Her Majesty's was built by Tree from the profits of 'Trilby' which opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1895 and ran for 260 performances.
As a side note the first productions of Oscar Wilde's 'A Woman of no Importance' and 'An Ideal Husband' were first produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1893.
The Theatre Royal Haymarket closed in 1904 for five months whilst major alterations by C. Stanley Peach were performed. This involved a complete reconstruction of the interior front of house of the stage right down to its foundations using steel, brick, and concrete, leaving only the stage, backstage areas, and the exterior untouched.
Backstage areas were renovated however in 1909 when a proper curtain, or tabs as they are now known, was also installed rather than the previous roller act-drop. In 1939 further alterations were made FOH by the architect John Murray including the adding of a large Lounge Bar under the Stalls and enlargement of the Stalls Foyer but because of the war this all took much longer than expected and was not finally finished until March of 1941.
The Theatre was extensively refurbished in 1994 at a cost of £1.3m when vast amounts of Gold Leaf were replaced, the 1821 stage and roof trusses were reinforced, the auditorium ceiling by Joseph Harker was cleaned and restored, new carpet, upholstery, and hand blocked wallpapers were replaced in the auditorium, the marble was polished and air conditioning installed. The capacity today is 903 on three levels.
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Venue Access Information.
Air Cooled Theatre. Left Luggage. With extra security measures being brought in across London and the UK they are unable to store any left luggage in the theatre – this includes all suitcases and ‘carry-on’ style cases. Small rucksacks, handbags and briefcases will be allowed into the theatre where you may be asked to open them for inspection. They would like to thank you in advance for your cooperation. The nearest storage facility is a few minutes walk away at Charing Cross Station.
Access Bookings. Bookings for disabled patrons and those with access needs can be made by calling their Box Office directly. 10am to 7.30pm. An Access rate is available, although not on all price bands. To enter the building with no steps an alternative entrance to the Stalls is used. Tel: 020 7930 8800. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Access into the theatre: Three steps into the foyer through the centre doors and through two sets of swing doors. The Box Office counter is on the right-hand side. Staircases have handrails on both sides and some steps are highlighted. Stalls are 30 steps down / up from the foyer, Royal Circle up 24 steps, Upper Circle and Gallery up 57. 14 steps down from the Stalls to the Stalls bar, none to the Royal Circle bar (apart from within the auditorium) and 3 to the Upper Circle / Gallery bar. Customers with mobility problems are advised to book stalls seats. The auditorium opens 45 minutes before the performance. If you require access to the Stalls with no steps you would use an alternative entrance, this can be opened from 30 minutes before a show. The Oscar Wilde Room is accessed via a staircase so is not suitable for patrons with mobility issues.
Wheelchair Access. Please contact the Duty Manager or Box Office on arrival. Access is through the side doors on the Haymarket at the front of the building. Exit is by doors either side of the foyer on the Haymarket. Two wheelchair spaces are available at the back of the auditorium. If patrons can transfer from their wheelchair, they are able to book any stall's aisle seat available.
Disabled Parking. Disabled parking spaces are available at various car parks near the theatre (click here) ,there are also on street disabled parking bays, Suffolk Street and Charles II Street being the closest to the theatre. There are single yellow lines in the Haymarket, a taxi rank in Lower Regent Street and drop-off and pick-up possible outside the theatre.
Disabled Toilets. There is an adapted toilet on street level at the back of the stalls. Access Dogs. Access dogs are not permitted inside the auditorium during the performance. However, there are staff available to look after them during the show. Toilets. Facilities in Stalls, Royal Circle and Upper Circle areas.
Extra Leg Room Seats. None of their seats are specifically designated as extra leg room but their box office staff can help you get the best seat for your needs.
Induction Loop and Amplification. Infra-red system with headsets are available and can be collected from the front of house desk. A £10 deposit is charged and refunded at the end of the performance, provided all parts are returned correctly.
The nearest car park is in Whitcomb Street – this is part of the Q-Park scheme. To find out more about Q-Park’s Theatreland Parking Scheme please click here. Many of their car parks offer a 50% discount on the ‘turn up and pay’ price. The £10 daily congestion charge for central London applies from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. The Theatre Royal Haymarket has a dedicated host to assist disabled patrons. Please call their box office on 020 7930 8800 for further information and advice.
Location : Theatre Royal Haymarket 18 Suffolk Street London SW1Y 4HT
Transport: Rail : Charing Cross (National Rail) then 8 minutes. Underground: Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly Line, Bakerloo Line) then 5 minutes. London Buses routes : 3, 6, 12, 14, 15, 22, 23, 38, 88, 94, 159 and 453 stop close by.
Access Line : 020 7930 8800
Tel: 020 7930 8800