Vaudeville Theatre Facade

Vaudeville Theatre Facade

Vaudeville Theatre  Interior

Vaudeville Theatre Interior


The Vaudeville Theatre is a West End theatre on the Strand in the City of Westminster. As the name suggests, the theatre held mostly vaudeville shows and musical revues in its early days. It opened in 1870 and was rebuilt twice, although each new building retained elements of the previous structure. The current building opened in 1926, and the capacity is now 690 seats. Rare thunder drum and lightning sheets, together with other early stage mechanisms survive in the theatre.

The theatre was designed by prolific architect C. J. Phipps, decorated in a Romanesque style by George Gordon, and opened on 16 April 1870 with Andrew Halliday's comedy, For Love Or Money and a burlesque, Don Carlos or the Infante in Arms. A notable innovation was the concealed footlights, which would shut off if the glass in front of them was broken.

The owner, William Wybrow Robertson, had run a failing billiard hall on the site but saw more opportunity in theatre. He leased the new theatre to three actors, Thomas Thorne, David James, and H.J. Montague. The original theatre stood behind two houses on the Strand, and the entrance was through a labyrinth of small corridors. It had a seating capacity of 1,046, rising in a horseshoe, over a pit and three galleries. The cramped site meant that facilities front and backstage were limited.

The great Shakespearean actor, Henry Irving, had his first conspicuous success as Digby Grant in James Albery's Two Roses at the Vaudeville in 1870, which held the theatre for what was at the time an extroardinarily successful run of 300 nights. The first theatre piece in the world to achieve 500 consecutive performances was the comedy Our Boys by H. J. Byron, which started its run at the Vaudeville in 1875. The production went on to surpass the 1,000 performance mark. This was such a rare event that London bus conductors approaching the Vaudeville Theatre stop shouted "Our Boys!" instead of the name of the theatre.

In 1882, Thomas Thorne became the sole lessee, and in 1889 he demolished the houses to create a foyer block in the Adamesque style, behind a Portland Stone facade on the Strand. Once again, the architect was C.J. Phipps. The theatre was refurbished to have more spacious seating and an ornate ceiling. It reopened on 13 January 1891 with a performance of Jerome K. Jerome's comedy, Woodbarrow Farm, preceded by Herbert Keith's one-act play The Note of Hand. This foyer is preserved today, as is the four storey frontage. Dramatist W. S. Gilbert presented one of his later plays here, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a burlesque "in Three Short 'Tableaux'" in 1891 (although he had published it in 1874 in Fun magazine). Also that year, Elizabeth Robins and Marion Lea directed and starred in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the theatre, and his Rosmersholm had its London premiere here.

* Gatti Family *

In 1892, Thorne passed the lease to restaurateurs Agostino and Stefano Gatti, who were also the owners of the lease of the nearby Adelphi Theatre, since 1878. The first production at the new theatre was a revival of Our Boys. The lease briefly passed into the hands of Weedon Grossmith in 1894, but was back with the Gattis in 1896. The theatre became known for a series of successful musical comedies. The French Maid, by Basil Hood, with music by Walter Slaughter, first played in London at Terry's Theatre under the management of W.H. Griffiths beginning in 1897 but transferred to the Vaudeville in early 1898, running for a very successful total of 480 London performances. The piece starred Louie Pounds. Seymour Hicks and his wife Ellaline Terriss starred in a series of Christmas entertainments here, including their popular Bluebell in Fairyland (1901).

Unfortunately, the foyer of the theatre had become infamous as the site of an argument in 1897 between Richard Archer Prince and Terriss's father, actor William Terriss. Soon after that argument, the deranged Prince stabbed William Terriss to death at the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre in Maiden Lane. Prince was a struggling young actor whom Terriss had tried to help.

Hicks and Terriss also starred here in Quality Street, a comedy by J. M. Barrie, which opened at the Vaudeville in 1902 and held the stage for another long run of 459 performances. It had first played in New York in 1901 but ran there for only a modestly successful 64 performances, making it one of the first American productions to score a bigger triumph in London. This was followed by the 1903 musical The Cherry Girl by Hicks, with music by Ivan Caryll, starring Hicks, Terriss and Courtice Pounds. In 1904, Hicks scored an even bigger hit with the musical, The Catch of the Season, written by Hicks and Cosmo Hamilton, based on the fairy tale Cinderella. It had a very long run of 621 performances, starring Hicks, Zena Dare (who created the role of Angela when Ellaline Terriss's pregnancy forced her to withdraw; and Dare was later replaced by Terriss and then by Dare's sister, Phyllis Dare) and Louie Pounds.

John Maria and Rocco Gatti took over management of the Vaudeville in 1905. In 1906, the theatre hosted the very successful The Belle of Mayfair, a musical composed by Leslie Stuart with a book by Basil Hood, Charles Brookfield and Cosmo Hamilton, produced by Hicks' partner, Charles Frohman. It ran for 431 performances and starred Edna May, Louie and her brother Courtice Pounds, and Camille Clifford.

In 1910, an English adaptation of The Girl in the Train (Die geschiedene Frau – literally, "The Divorcee"), a 1908 Viennese operetta by Leo Fall, opened at the Vaudeville. It was produced by George Edwardes, with lyrics by Adrian Ross and starred Robert Evett, Phyllis Dare and Rutland Barrington. In 1911, William Greet produced Baby Mine at the theatre. Betty Bolton made her debut in 1916, at the age of 10, in a revue called Some, at the theatre. During and after World War I, audiences sought light entertainment, and musical revues held the Vaudeville stage, including Cheep (1917), the long-running Just Fancy (1920) and Rats (1923), another popular revue. Albert Ketèlbey was one of the theatre's music directors.

The theatre closed on 7 November 1925, when the interior was completely reconstructed to designs by Robert Atkinson. The auditorium was changed from a horseshoe shape to the current rectangle shape, and the seating capacity reduced to just over 700. A new dressing room block with an ornate boardroom extended the site to Maiden Lane. The theatre reopened on 23 February 1926, with a popular revue by Archie de Bear called R.S.V.P., notable because its final rehearsal was broadcast by the BBC. The theatre then hosted William Somerset Maugham's comedy, The Bread-Winner in 1930.

After World War II, the theatre presented William Douglas Home's play, The Chiltern Hundreds, which ran for 651 performances. The record-setting musical Salad Days, composed by Julian Slade with lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds and Slade, premiered at the Bristol Old Vic in 1954 but soon transferred to the Vaudeville, enjoying the longest run of any theatrical work up to that point in history. Another notable production at the theatre was Arnold Wesker's 1959 play, Chips with Everything.

* Modern Era *

A proposed redevelopment of Covent Garden by the GLC in 1968 saw the theatre under threat, together with the nearby Adelphi, Garrick, Lyceum and Duchess theatres. An active campaign by Equity, the Musicians' Union and theatre owners under the auspices of the Save London Theatres Campaign led to the abandonment of the scheme.

Cicely Courtneidge played at the theatre in The Bride Comes Back (1960) and Ray Cooney's Move Over Mrs. Markham (1971). Bill Treacher made his West End debut in 1963 in the comedy Shout for Life at the Vaudeville. In 1966, the theatre hosted Arsenic and Old Lace, starring Sybil Thorndike and her husband Lewis Casson. Brigid Brophy's The Burglar premiered at the theatre in 1967, and Joyce Rayburn's comedy, The Man Most Likely To..., starring Leslie Phillips, opened initially at the Vaudeville in 1968 and went on to run for over 1,000 performances in London.

In 1969, the Gatti family sold their interest in the theatre to Sir Peter Saunders, and in 1970 he commissioned Peter Rice to redesign the interior. Among other changes were a deep red wallpaper in the auditorium and more comfortable seats. Also, the loggia above the street was glazed to make the balcony an extension of the bar. The backstage lighting was rerigged, and a forestage lift and counterweight flying system were installed. The theatre achieved some protection in 1972 when it was Grade II listed. In 1983, ownership passed to Michael Codron and David Sutton. Stephen Waley-Cohen took ownership in 1996, passing it to Max Weitzenhofer in 2002.

Meanwhile, drama was added to the standard bill of fare at the theatre. Hugh Paddick starred in the Joyce Rayburn farce Out on a Limb at the theatre in 1976, Noël Coward's Present Laughter with Donald Sinden in the lead was revived in 1981 and Patrick Cargill and Moira Lister co-starred in the farce Key for Two in 1982. Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit was revived at the theatre in 1986, and Willy Russell's play Shirley Valentine played in 1988, starring Pauline Collins. In 1990, Simon Gray's play Hidden Laughter was produced at the theatre, followed by Kander and Ebb's 1991 musical, 70, Girls, 70, starring Dora Bryan.

A 1996 revival of Salad Days, starring the duo Kit and The Widow, was not successful, but Jean Fergusson's show She Knows You Know!, in which she portrayed the Lancashire comedian Hylda Baker, played at the theatre in 1997 and was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. Showtune, a musical revue celebrating the words and music of composer Jerry Herman and conceived by Paul Gilger was given a London production at the Vaudeville in 1998 under its previous title The Best of Times. That same year the theatre housed Kat and the Kings, which won the Olivier for Best New Musical and, in an unusual move, Best Actor in a Musical for its entire cast. Madame Melville, a play by Richard Nelson was presented in 2000. It marked the return of Macaulay Culkin to acting after a six-year hiatus and also starred Irène Jacob and Madeleine Potter. In 2001 Ray Cooney's farce Caught in the Net, starring Russ Abbot and Eric Sykes, had a ten-month run.

The dance/performance art troupe Stomp was in residence at the theatre from 2002 to 2007. Since 2003, the theatre has been owned by Max Weitzenhoffer, and in 2005, the venue was brought under the management of Nimax Theatres Limited.

* Recent Productions *

  • Uncle Vanya (2 November 2012 – 26 January 2013) starring Ken Stott, Anna Friel and Samuel West.
  • Great Expectations (6 February 2013 – 30 March 2013) starring Paula Wilcox.
  • The West End Men (25 May 2013 – 22 June 2013) starring Lee Mead, David Thaxton, Matt Willis, Glenn Carter and Stephen Rahman-Hughes.
  • The Ladykillers (29 June 2013 – 26 October 2013).
  • The Duck House (27 November 2013 – 29 March 2014) starring Ben Miller.
  • Handbagged (10 April 2014 – 2 August 2014) starring Marion Bailey, Stella Gonet and Fenella Woolgar.
  • Forbidden Broadway (15 September 2014 – 22 November 2014).
  • The Wind in the Willows (26 November 2014 – 17 January 2015)
  • Di and Viv and Rose (29 January 2015 – 14 March 2015) starring Tamzin Outhwaite, Samantha Spiro and Jenna Russell.
  • Oppenheimer (31 March 2015 – 23 May 2015)
  • Just Jim Dale (28 May 2015 – 20 June 2015) starring Jim Dale.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (1 July 2015 – 4 November 2015) starring David Suchet.
  • Bill Bailey: Limbo Land (10 December 2015 – 17 January 2016) starring Bill Bailey.
  • Hand to God (15 February 2016 – 30 April 2016) starring Janie Dee and Neil Pearson.
  • Hobson's Choice (14 June 2016 – 10 September 2016) starring Martin Shaw.
  • My Family: Not the Sitcom (15 September 2016 – 15 October 2016) starring David Baddiel.
  • Dead Funny (3 November 2016 – 4 February 2017) starring Steve Pemberton, Ralf Little and Katherine Parkinson.
  • The Boys in the Band (7 February 2017 – 18 February 2017) starring Mark Gatiss, Ian Hallard and Daniel Boys.
  • Stepping Out (14 March 2017 – 17 June 2017) starring Amanda Holden, Natalie Casey, Anna-Jane Casey and Tracy-Ann Oberman.
  • The Mentor (4 July 2017 – 2 September 2017) starring F. Murray Abraham.
  • * Classic Spring Company *

  • A Woman of No Importance (16 October 2017 – 30 December 2017) starring Eve Best and Anne Reid.
  • Lady Windermere's Fan (22 January 2018 – 7 April 2018) starring Jennifer Saunders, Samantha Spiro and Kevin Bishop.
  • An Ideal Husband (3 May 2018 – 14 July 2018) starring Edward Fox, Freddie Fox and Frances Barber.
  • T
  • he Importance of Being Earnest (2 August 2018 – 20 October 2018)
  • ** –– **

    The first Theatre on the site opened as the Vaudeville Theatre on the 16th of April 1870 with a comedy called 'For Love Or Money' by Andrew Halliday, which was followed by 'Don Carlos or The Infante In Arms' by Conway Edwardes. The Theatre was designed by the well known Theatre architect C. J. Phipps and built by Mr. Hyde with an auditorium on four levels, Stalls and Pit, Dress Circle, Upper Circle, Gallery and Ampitheatre, with a capacity of 1,000.

    Two days after the Theatre opened the Pall Mall Gazette printed a review of the new building and it's opening night production in their 18th of April 1870 edition saying:- 'Upon the ground in the Strand formerly occupied by the Bentinck Club, and at an earlier date by the printing office of the defunct Glowworm newspaper, Mr. Phipps, whose experience in the matter of play- house building must be quite without precedent, has erected the Vaudeville Theatre, now open for the season under the management of Messrs. Montague, James, and Thorne, the popular actors of the Prince of Wales's and Strand Theatres.

    In size the house resembles the New Royalty, with a much loftier ceiling however, and with more convenient arrangements for the comfort of the audience. The decorations are in very good taste and well suited to the proportions of the building, objection being permitted to the deep-toned orange of the box-draperies, which disturbs the harmony of the general colouring. All modern improvements in the lighting of the stage and auditory have been made duly available. The house is very fresh from the builder's hands - too fresh, as it seemed, for the spectators in the pit soon after their admission began to exclaim angrily that they and their clothes were suffering detriment from the wetness of the paint. Peace was restored presently, however, upon the stage manager's promise to compensate the injured in this respect, and upon the discovery that the paint was unmixed with oil or varnish, and therefore comparatively harmless in its effects even upon broadcloth.

    The managers maybe regarded as representatives of the entertainments to be provided on the new stage. Mr. Montague will be responsible for the acting of comedies flavoured with sentiment, while Messrs. James and Thome will bring from the Strand Theatre burlesque traditions in which breadth and vehement frolic will be important elements. Vaudeville, it seems, will be confined to the name of the theatre, and be found only on its outside...

    ...The new comedy called " For Love or Money," written by Mr. Halliday, with which the performances commenced, should perhaps rather have been described, after the fashion of the medieval stage, as "a morality." It is a play almost without a plot. Its purpose is didactic, and it labours to set forth in a series of scenes loosely strung together how miserable is a marriage for money, how delightful a frugal union of pure affection! This is not very new teaching, and although, perhaps, unimpeachable on the score of soundness, has certainly its tiresome side... Three long acts wrought from material so undramatic severely tested the patience of the audience, and the verdict pronounced upon the new play was not wholly favourable...

    The Vaudeville numbers in its company some very efficient players, and what good acting could do for the comedy was certainly done for it by Mr. Montague as George Anderson, Mr. Irving as Alfred Skimmington, and Mr. Honey as Major Buncombe; but the opportunities for the actors were very few. Miss Fawsitt, who appeared as Jemima Buncombe, is a young actress of marked ability, who, if she can but restrain her excess of zeal and learn the value of repose of manner, may take sonic rank in her profession, Miss Cavendish personated Mrs. Darlington, the young widow, and Mr. Garthorne, a new actor, sustained the ungrateful part of her timid lover, Tom Buncombe.

    To the comedy succeeded a burlesque on the subject of "Don Carlos," supplied to repletion with all those attractions which have been found of value in previous works of the class. Those who admire existing burlesques will probably admire "Don Carlos." Its scenery is very bright, and its costumes are very smart; it is rich in parodies of popular tunes and in fatiguing dances; it is very long, and its story is unintelligible.

    It finds occupation for a number of young ladies attired in doublet and hose - the hose being generally in excess of the doublet - in high-heeled satin boots, and displaying calves whose symmetry is not solely the work of nature. Mr. Thorne plays the part of a woman, and dances and sings with amazing energy. Miss Nelly Power plays the part of a man, and otherwise rivals the feats of Mr. Thorne. Mr. Honey is comical in a most unkingly way as Philip II of Spain. An elaborate parody of the ridiculous Islington bull fight concludes the performance. "Don Carlos" seemed to please the audience very completely. Between the plays an opening address in verse written by Mr. Shirley Brooks was delivered by Mr. Montague.' The above text in quotes was first published in the Pall Mall Gazette, 18th of April 1870.

    Not long after the Theatre opened Arthur Lloyd's future wife, Katty King, was performing there in the Historical Burlesque 'Elizabeth or the Don, the Duck, the Drake, and the Invisible Armada' by F. C. Burnand, followed by a production of the Farce 'Chiselling' with a regular Company which included Nelly Power and the soon to be very famous actor Henry Irving. These two pieces followed a performance of 'Two Roses' on the same evening, played by many of the same Company from Thursday the 17th of November 1870. 'Two Roses' had previously already been showing at the Vaudeville for a record breaking 144 performances.

    The evening began at 7pm and the audience were in for a long evening with 'Chiselling' not starting until Midnight. One reviewer writing about 'Elizabeth' said: 'The songs, excellently rendered, illustrate the latest successes of the Music halls; and the part-song "Row in a galley with the ladies oh', won a well-merited encore... Miss Nelly Power obtained repeated proofs of her popularity, and the liveliness and piquancy of her performance secured abundant recognition. As Sir Walter Raleigh Miss A. Newton delivered her couplets with excellent point and judgment; and Miss Kattie King, who made her first appearance here, was a graceful and animated Sir Francis Walsingham; travested into a chief of the Police.' Irving didn't warrant a mention.

    The day after the Theatre opened The ERA reviewed the new building in their 17th of April 1870 edition saying:- 'This elegant little theatre has been erected upon the site occupied by Nos. 403 and 404 Strand, and the premises of the defunct Bentinck Club in the rear. It extends nearly as far as Maiden Lane towards the north and to Lumley Court towards the east.

    Though small in comparison with the larger establishments in its immediate neighbourhood, it will comfortably seat 1,000 persons with a considerable amount of standing space in addition. Mr. C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., the architect who has been entrusted with this work has already, designed the Queen's, the Gaiety, and seven other Theatres, within the last few years. The model of this new addition to the Metropolitan Theatres is, however, novel in every respect. The principal entrance is in the Strand, by a spacious hall leading to the stalls, on a level with the Strand; and by a staircase, six feet wide, to the balcony and boxes. The pit is approached by a separate corridor, five feet wide, level with the Strand. The Gallery entrance is in Lumley-court, approached both from the Strand and Maiden-lane.

    The plan of the auditory is strikingly original, as well as elegant, consists of a balcony, the front forming a semicircle, opening out with curves of a contrary flexure to the proscenium columns. Behind this, at a higher level, is the dress circle tier, the front of the upper circle being on the same vertical line as the division between the balcony and dress circle, Behind the upper circle is a spacious gallery. The front of the upper circle is carried round over the proscenium opening, from which springs a groined ceiling, joining the main ceiling over the auditory at its diameter line. There are on either side, between the balcony and the stage opening on the grand tier, three private boxes, divided by pillars having enriched caipitals, and surmounted by semicircular arches, each containing a figure-subject.

    Below these again, on the pit level, are two more private boxes on either side. Those on the left hand, facing the stage, are set apart for the Royal family, and arranged so that they may be thrown into one large box, approached from the stalls corridor, level with the Strand. There is, however, another corridor on the other side, so that the stalls are thus approached from both sides. There are six rows of arm-chairs in stalls, a commodious pit, three rows of arm-chairs in balcony, four rows of seats in dress circle, two more private boxes behind same, two rows of upper circle, and a spacious gallery.

    In comparison with the smaller houses of the Metropolis, the Vaudeville has a larger seating area than the Strand, the Prince of Wales's, the Royalty, or the Charing-cross Theatres. Opening out from the first landing of the grand staircase is a handsome refreshment saloon, with cloak-rooms contiguous, for both ladies and gentlemen; above this, and occupying the frontage towards the Strand, are rooms for the management offices, wardrobe making rooms, and a spacious refreshment saloon for the gallery.

    The lighting of the auditory is by one of "Strode's" sun-burners in centre of ceiling. The ventilation has been specially considered, there being extracting flues in the side walls of every tier near the ceiling. In most Theatres the part of the pit underneath the boxes is rendered most oppressive by reason of the very limited height; here, however, the ceiling over the centre of pit is carried up to a height of ten feet, and has suspended lights, with large ventilating flues over.

    The stage is well adapted for every kind of performance; it is thirty feet six inches in depth from the float lights to the back wall, with a dock for stowing scenery in addition. The width between walls is forty-one feet; the stage opening twenty-two feet wide; and the height above is sufficient to take up scenery out of sight.

    The stage floor is fitted up with machinery of the usual elaborate description. The footlights are those which have been introduced by Mr. Phipps in several of his later Theatres, and manufactured for him by Messrs, Strode, the lights being entirely out of the sight of the audience, and burning downwards, the produce of the combustion being taken away in a large iron cylinder running parallel with the front of the stage, and carried up in a flue in the main wall. One great advantage gained by this invention is that the unpleasant vapour screen which, in the old manner, was constantly rising between the audience and the scene, is entirely removed, and the performers can now approach the footlights without the risk of getting burnt, as a piece of gauze may be placed over without ignition. If any of the glasses should break that particular burner falls down and shuts off the gas. Behind the curtain are the usual accessories of a Theatre, and numerous dressing-rooms for all classes of performers.

    The coloured decorations have been executed by Mr. George Gordon. They are principally on the flat, there being no raised ornament on the ceiling, or on the box fronts, except the upper and lower mouldings. The general character is Romanesque. The ceiling is divided into compartments with white ornaments on a blue ground. The panels in the cove over proscenium are of varied design, in colours, on a gray ground. The front of the balcony tier is the most elaborate, being ornamented in rich colour on a gold ground; this front is slightly out of the perpendicular, so that the whole light from the sun-burner falling on the gold ground produces a most rich effect. The lunettes in arches over the private boxes have been painted by Mr. W. Phillips, and represent on either side subjects from the Fairy portion of A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. The hangings for the boxes are of the richest hue of golden-coloured figured satin, the effect of which is enhanced by the warm crimson and gold colour with which the walls are lined.

    The act-drop has been designed and painted also by Mr. Gordon, the figures in the foreground being by Alfred Thompson, Esq. The seats in stalls and balcony are covered in a rich maroon colour, the woodwork being ebonised. They have been made by Messrs. Wadman, of Bath, from the architect's registered design. The general builder's work has-been done by Mr. Macintosh, and the whole of the works in every department have been executed from the designs and under the personal direction of Mr. C. J. Phipps, F.S.A., of 26, Mecklenburgh-square.' The Above text in quotes was first published in the ERA 17th of April 1870.

    A month after the Vaudeville Theatre opened The Graphic printed a review of the building with a sketch of the auditorium in their 14th of May 1870 edition saying:- 'We lately mentioned the opening of this theatre, and we now give a drawing of the interior, with such further particulars as may interest our readers. We have made great strides of late in theatrical architecture, as those who can remember the old green-latticed Adelphi - and they need not be very old theatre-goers to do that - well know. Something is due to the managers, something to the better taste of the public, and something to Mr. Phipps, to whom we owe our three most comfortable and elegant theatres, the Queen's, the Gaiety, and now the Vaudeville. He has shown us that a theatre may be well lighted, well ventilated, easy of access, and a place of comfort to its frequenters, without necessarily being any the worse as a stage, and he has, moreover, managed to free himself from the trammels of the old decorator's rule which held gilt mouldings on a coloured ground to be the only embellishment for a dramatic temple.

    The New Vaudeville Theatre auditorium and stage - From The Graphic of May 14th 1870.As we have before stated, there are various novelties in the arrangement of the new house, as regards what we now call the auditorium. This consists of a balcony,behind which , but on a higher level, is the dress circle; above the dress circle is an upper circle, and behind this again the gallery, the balcony projecting beyond the other tiers. The front of the upper circle is continued over the proscenium, from which springs the groined ceiling, and between the balcony and the stage are the private boxes, there being two more on each side below these and on a level with the stalls.

    The sitting accommodation is for 1,000, there being six rows of arm-chairs in the stalls, three rows in the balcony, and four rows of seats in the dress circle - behind which are two more private boxes - and two rows seats in the upper circle.

    The decorations by Mr. Gordon are painted on the flat, and are Romanesque in character, the front of the balcony tier differing from the others in being slightly inclined, and being decorated in rich colours on a gold ground, the ceiling is in compartments of blue and white, and the alcove above the proscenium is ornamented with colours on a grey ground; above the upper private boxes are semi-circular arches containing paintings by Mr. W. Phipps, representing subjects from the Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Tempest. The hangings of the boxes are of golden coloured satin, the interiors being lined with crimson and gold; the stall and balcony seats are maroon and ebony.

    The theatre is lighted by a sun-burner in the centre of the ceiling and suspended lights in the pit, and the footlights are of the now approved fashion, to which we believe we are also indebted to Mr. Phipps, being out of site of the audience and burning downwards. The stage, which is fitted with all the usual machinery, measures 30ft 6in. in depth and 22ft in width, the entire width from wall to wall being 41ft, and there being plenty of room above.

    On the first landing of the great staircase are a refreshment saloon, and ladies and gentlemen's cloak rooms, and on the floor above, another refreshment room for the gallery. We understand that the design, both architectural and ornamental, even to the pattern of the chairs, is entirely Mr. Phipps's own, and the whole has been executed under his personal direction.' The above text in quotes was first published in The Graphic, May 14th 1870.

    * The Second Vaudeville Theatre, Strand, London - 1891 *

    The Vaudeville Theatre was reconstructed in 1891 and the newly built Theatre opened on the 13th of January that year with a one act play called 'The Note Of Hand' by Herbert Keith, followed by a comedy called 'Woodbarrow Farm' by Jerome K. Jerome.

    This new Vaudeville Theatre was also designed by C. J. Phipps and the changed auditorium was on four levels, Stalls and Pit, Circle, Upper Circle, and Galler, with a capacity of 740. The stage was 21' 8" Wide by 22' 8" Deep. The frontage of the Theatre was completely replaced in this new construction, removing what had previously been the frontage of two houses on the Strand which still survived in the original Vaudeville Theatre.

    The ERA reviewed this newly constructed Theatre too, in their 10th of January edition (reprinted in 'The Theatres Of London' by Mander and Mitchenson) which said:- 'The frontage, which was not rebuilt when the theatre was constructed in 1870, comprised Nos. 403 and 404, Strand. These two houses have now been pulled down, and a handsome facade in Portland stone erected; this is of four storeys in height.

    The ground storey has a centre archway leading into the vestibule, with two side doorways respectively leading to the pit, and also the vestibule. The doorways to the vestibule are recessed, so as to leave a porch, 6 foot wide, closed to the thoroughfare by the patent Bostock iron gates, which neither swing, nor fold, but slide away to nothing behind the piers, causing no obstruction. The vestibule is in the same position as formerly, but now forms a handsome entrance hall, some 20 feet square. The pit entrance is at the eastern side, in the position formerly occupied by a flower shop.

    On the first storey a loggia, 6 foot wide, is formed under an arcade of five arches. Opening on to this, through five French casement windows, is the grand foyer or saloon, 26 feet by 20 feet, with elaborate ceiling, fireplace and fittings. Here will be found a buffet for refreshments, while the loggia will form a pleasant lounge for smoking in the summer. The walls of the staircase are decorated with an elaborately designed Japanese leather paper in gold and red. The vestibule and foyer have similar hangings on the walls, while the floors are of marble, and the ceiling of ornamental plaster of geometric design.

    The auditorium, as regards its seating capacity, is unaltered, but the private boxes and side corridors on the stalls level have been removed. New stall seats covered in peacock-blue plush have been erected and placed sufficiently far apart to admit of easy passing between the rows.

    A more striking change in the auditorium, which has entirely changed the character of the theatre, has been the removal of small rooms on either side of the amphitheatre, and the cove over the proscenium. A new ceiling with groins springing from the outer walls, gives a wonderful idea of enlarged space, and the space above the proscenium opening has been crowned by a pediment. The scheme of colour adopted in the auditorium has been French white and grey with gold, the seating peacock blue, the carpets and hangings to the private boxes of rose colour, and the walls of a greenish grey - The favourite little theatre thus becomes to all intents a new one, replete with every convenience.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 10th of January 1891.

    * The Third and Present Vaudeville Theatre, Strand, London - 1926 *

    The Vaudeville Theatre was reconstructed in 1926 and this third incarnation is the one that is still standing today. The Theatre reopened on the 23rd of February 1926 with a revue called 'R.S.V.P' by Archie de Bear.

    This reconstruction led to the auditorium being completely gutted and rebuilt by Bovis Ltd., for the designer Robert Atkinson. The roof of the Theatre was also raised at this time and part of the basement lowered. Also the proscenium was enlarged and the stage completely rebuilt. Virtually a new Theatre in essence. The new stage dimensions were 21' 10" Wide by 29' Deep.

    The new Vaudeville Theatre's auditorium was built on three levels, Stalls, Dress Circle, and Upper Circle and had a capacity on opening of 650, but this has since been enlarged to 690. Right - A Programme for 'Goodness, How Sad!' at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1939. The facade of this new Theatre however, was retained from the second reconstruction of the Theatre which was originally completed in 1891.

    The Vaudeville Theatre has been home to a great many successful productions over its long history, and continues to be so to this day. The stage of the Theatre is 9m deep with a proscenium opening of 7.26m and the Theatre has an orchestra pit capable of housing 15 to 20 musicians.


    * –– *

    Venue Access Information.

    Tel: 0330 333 4815 . Email:

    Wheelchair user access is provided using the AAT Major Stair Climber. The stair climber accommodates manual wheelchairs up to 66cm (26 inches) wide and 89cm (35 inches) deep including any footrest. The maximum combined weight the Stair Climber can accommodate is 190kg (30 Stones) when distributed evenly across the wheelchair. Electric wheelchair users may be asked to transfer into the theatre’s manual wheelchair on arrival if the theatre staff consider the electric wheelchair unsuitable for transportation on the Stair Climber.

    Electric and manual wheelchair users are requested to contact their Access Team via phone or email ahead of purchasing tickets to discuss specific requirements and to book the use of the Stair Climber. They ask that all patrons requiring the use of the Stair Climber arrive at the theatre 45 minutes before the start of the performance. Stalls M1 and M18 provide wheelchair spaces, with companion seats adjacent. Click here to watch a video clip of the Stair Climber in action.

    Disabled toilet facilities are available by arrangement with their neighbour, the Adelphi Theatre. A member of theatre staff will accompany customers wishing to use the disabled toilet facilities; alternatively customers may present their theatre tickets at the main entrance of the Adelphi Theatre. Ladies toilets are located in the Stalls and Grand Circle. Gentlemen’s toilets are located in the Dress Circle and Grand Circle.

    The theatre bars are located in the Dress Circle and Grand Circle. A member of theatre staff will offer assistance purchasing beverages. Programmes and Ice Creams are available in the main foyer and auditorium.

    The theatre is fitted with a Williams Sound hearing assistance system. Headsets are available on a first come first served basis.

    For information about disabled parking in Westminster please visit or visit the Q-Park website NCP at Upper St Martins Lane, Masterpark at Trafalgar Square. If you’re driving into the West End to see a show, take advantage of Q-Park’s Theatreland Parking Scheme saving 50% off off-street car parking charges for up to 24 hours. To qualify, simply present your Q-Park car park ticket for validation at their box office and the car park machine will automatically charge you half price.

    Guide dogs and hearing dogs are welcome. For comfort we recommend purchasing a seat on the end of a row. Alternatively we provide a dog sitting service for 2 dogs at a time; advance booking is recommended. To access the auditorium there are 6 stairs down to the Stalls, 22 stairs up to the Dress Circle and 54 stairs up to the Upper Circle.

  • Captioned Performance of Lady Windermere's Fan - Tuesday 27 March, 7.30pm.
  • Audio Described Performance of Lady Windemere's Fan - Wednesday 4 April, 7.30pm.
  • Audio Described Performance of An Ideal Husband - Wednesday 4 July, 7.30pm.
  • Captioned Performance of An Ideal Husband - Wednesday 11 July, 7.30pm.
  • 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 : Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH

    Transport: Rail : Charing Cross (National Rail) then 6 minutes. Underground: Charing Cross (Northern Line, Bakerloo Line) then 5 minutes. London Buses routes : 1, 4 , 6, 9, 11, 13 , 15, 68, 76, 171, 176 and 188 stop close by.

    What's On

    Seating Plan.

    Access Line : 0330 333 4815

    Tel: 0330 333 4814