Trafalgar Studios, formerly the Whitehall Theatre until 2004, is a West End theatre in Whitehall, near Trafalgar Square, in the City of Westminster, London. Also known as Trafalgar Studios at the Whitehall Theatre in honour of its former incarnation, the building consists of two intimate theatres designed by architects Tim Foster and John Muir. Studio 1, the larger of the two spaces with 380 seats, opened on 3 June 2004 with the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Othello. Studio 2, with 100 seats, opened in October 2005 with the play Cyprus.
The original Whitehall Theatre, built on the site of the 17th century Ye Old Ship Tavern was designed by Edward A. Stone, with interiors in the Art Deco style by Marc-Henri and Laverdet. It had 634 seats. The theatre opened on 29 September 1930 with The Way to Treat a Woman by Walter Hackett, who was the theatre's licensee. In November 1933 Henry Daniell appeared there as Portman in Afterwards. Hackett presented several other plays of his own before leaving in 1934, and the theatre built its reputation for modern comedies throughout the rest of the decade.
During World War II it housed revues, which had become commonplace entertainment throughout the West End. In 1942, The Whitehall Follies, featuring Phyllis Dixey, the first stripper to perform in the theatre district, opened with great fanfare and became an immediate success. Dixey leased the theatre and remained in it for the next five years.
A series of five long-running farces, presented under the umbrella title "Whitehall farce" by the actor-manager Brian Rix, were staged at the theatre from 1950 to 1966: Reluctant Heroes, by Colin Morris (1950–54); Dry Rot, by John Chapman (1954–58); Simple Spymen (1958–61); One For the Pot, by Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton (1961–64); and Chase Me, Comrade, by Cooney (1964–66). Excerpts from the shows were televised by the BBC.
In 1969 a nude revue called Pyjama Tops took over the venue and remained for five years, after which the building was shuttered until July 1982 when a production of "Private Dick" starring Robert Powell ran for 16 weeks. After considerable refurbishment that retained most of its Art Deco features, it reopened on 5 March 1986 with a successful revival of J.B. Priestley's When We Are Married. Subsequent productions included When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Foreigner, Run For Your Wife, Absurd Person Singular, Travels with My Aunt, tributes to Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison and the Blues Brothers, and solo performances by Ennio Marchetto and Maria Friedman.
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Between 1997 and 1999, the theatre was converted into a television and radio studio used primarily to broadcast Jack Docherty's popular talk show and BBC Radio 4's Live from London. It returned to theatrical use, with such productions as Three Sisters, Puppetry of the Penis, "Art", Rat Pack Confidential, and Sing-a-Long-a-ABBA, before its owner, the Ambassador Theatre Group, announced the building would be reconfigured and reopen with a new name.
Since 2004, Trafalgar Studios has presented short runs of revivals of classic plays and musicals, including Sweeney Todd (2004); Losing Louis (2005); a season by the RSC repertory season, from December 2005 to February 2006, of plays including Sir Thomas More, Sejanus: His Fall and Believe What You Will; an adaptation of Jane Eyre by Polly Teale (2006); Bent (2006–07); Elling (2007); Dealer's Choice (2007–08); Fat Pig (2008, transferring to the Comedy Theatre); Entertaining Mr Sloane (2009) and A Christmas Carol (2010–11). Three Days in May showed at the theatre from November 2011 to March 2012.
The theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in December 1996, noting "The auditorium has a decorative cohesion and prettiness rare in theatres of its day, and has the best surviving original fabric of this type of theatre".
In May 2016, Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire, former owners and founders of Ambassador Theatre Group, announced they are stepping down from ATG to set up their own production company called Trafalgar Entertainment Group (TEG), which would take control of Trafalgar Studios.
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The Whitehall was one of many Theatres which opened in London's West End in 1930, and one of several opening in the same month. First there was the Prince Edward on April the 3rd,then the Cambridge on the 4th of September, then the Phoenix on the 24th of September, and the Whitehall on the 29th of September. Next to be opened were the rebuilt Adelphi Theatre on 3rd of December, and finally the Leicester Square Theatre which opened on December the 19th. Quite a flurry of Theatre building for one year in the 1930s.
The Whitehall Theatre was designed by Edward A. Stone with an Art Deco interior by Marc-Henri and Laverdet, who also designed the Piccadilly Theatre's interior. The auditorium was built on two levels, Stalls and Dress Circle with a capacity of 620. The stage was a compact 27' 7" Wide by 15' 6" Deep. The Theatre became famous in the 50s and 60s for being the home of Brian Rix's 'Whitehall Farces'. This began with a play called 'Reluctant Heroes' which opened in September of 1950, and ended in 1969 when the phenomenally successful nude show 'Pyjama Tops' starring Fiona Richmond opened at the Theatre on Monday September 22nd 1969, and ran for the next 5 years.
Paul Raymond bought the lease of the Theatre in 1971 and by the end of the decade, and without permission, he had turned the Theatre into a kind of tourist museum called 'The Theatre Of War.' Raymond got into serious trouble with Westminster Council as a result. A successful Public Inquiry followed, supported by the newly formed Save London's Theatres Campaign, and the Theatres Trust, which eventually went against Paul Raymond and has helped to preserve the status of Theatre buildings in London ever since.
In the late 80s the Theatre was refurbished, and it reopened on March the 5th 1986 with J. B. Priestley's 'When We Are Married.' The Whitehall then went on to stage a series of successful plays and tribute shows. In the late 90s it was used as a Television and Radio Studio for a few years before returning to live Theatre use again, but eventually the Theatre was to close again, and this time for major reconstruction.
After 'Rat Pack Confidential closed in 2003 the Theatre had a major, but reversible, conversion to the newly renamed Trafalgar Studios. This involved splitting the Theatre into two Studio Spaces, one above the other, and creating a 380 seat auditoria in the original Dress Circle and extending this level down to the front of the stage; Studio One, and a new intimate 100 seat auditoria in the space which was formerly the Stalls area underneath the Dress Circle; Studio Two.
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Venue Access Information.
Bar : As well as a kiosk and bar in the foyer, there is also a new “Studio Bar” that is open from 6pm every night and serves cocktails and premium wine. Prices: ◾Cocktails are 2 for £10 between 6pm – 7pm.
Toilets : Trafalgar Studios has male and female toilets upstairs at the back of Studio 1 as well as toilets in the Studio Bar. The theatres disabled toilet are situated on the lower level in the studio bar.
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.
Shop : There is a kiosk and bar in the Foyer as well as a retail outlet in the Studio Bar area where audience members can purchase merchandise and confectionery. Prices:
Trafalgar Studios, formally the Whitehall Theatre, was redeveloped and restored into its current state in 2004. In the development the theatre’s traditional auditorium was knocked through and remodeled into two separate studios. The main theatrical space is Studio 1, which is where the larger more commercial plays run for longer booking periods. Studio 1 has around 380 seats in one highly raked level and three boxes. There are no real viewing issues in the main seating area; due to the high rake gradient, all patrons can see over one another’s heads, there are no unsightly pillars and as the theatre space is so small it is difficult to feel far away. The boxes present a slight side on view but, again, due to the theatres petite size, this doesn’t pose much of a viewing issue.
Wheelchair Access : Trafalgar Studios 1 & 2 are accessible for Wheelchair Users. The main entrance to the theatre is on Whitehall. The Foyer, Foyer Bar and Box Office are on street level. Please note, Trafalgar Studios are only able to accommodate small wheelchairs - up to 30” or 77cm width (no mobility scooters) due to size and weight restrictions (225 kg max) on their lifts.
Hearing Loops : The infrared hearing loops now work in Rows F-H in Studio 1 (best reception in more central seats); in Studio 2 best reception is in A5-8, B6-9 C7-10 or D7-8. Devices are at the Box Office, £10 deposit is required. There are two devices available: Induction Loop Necklace Suitable for persons wearing a hearing aid, the induction loop necklace is worn around the neck. Whilst wearing the necklace switch your hearing aid to the 'T' setting and the sound is amplified. The necklace has an adjustable volume control. Headset This device amplifies sound through earpieces similar to regular headphones. Suitable for persons without a hearing aid.
Guide Dogs : Guide Dogs are permitted in the auditorium or can be looked after by staff during the show.
Trafalgar studios is within the London Congestion Charge Zone which applies from 7am until 6pm and costs £10 per day. If you are driving to the theatre after 6pm then you will not be charged. Trafalgar Studio is part of the Q-Park Scheme. The nearest participating car park is the 24hr Q Park in Trafalgar Square (SW1A 2TS). Parking costs £18 for up to 3hrs, and £24 for 4hrs but theatregoers can save 50% if they have their tickets validated at the theatre.
Charing Cross : Exit the station and take the immediate left down the Strand. You will reach a roundabout (Trafalgar Square will be ahead of you); continue walking left round the roundabout and then turn down Whitehall. Trafalgar Studios will be on the right hand side of the road.
Location : Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY
Transport: Rail : Charing Cross (National Rail) then 4 minutes. Underground: Charing Cross (Northern Line, Bakerloo Line) then 3 minutes. London Buses routes : to Whitehall: 3, 11, 24, 87, 88 and 159; to Cockspur St (Trafalgar Square): 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 15, 88 and 453.
Access Line : 0844 871 7677
Tel: 0844 871 7632