The Playhouse Theatre is a west-end theatre located close to Trafalgar Square in Northumberland Avenue. The building of the venue was completed in 1882 by Sefton Henry Parry and opened to the public as the 'Royal Avenue Theatre' in March that year with a capacity of 679 seats. The theatre was subsequently rebuilt in 1907 but still retains its original substage machinery. The current capacity at the venue is now 786.
In its early years, the theatre was generally known for hosting farces, comic operas, and burlesque but by the 1890s, the venue was also presenting drama, which resulted notably in 1894, Annie Horniman, the tea heiress, anonymously sponsoring Florence Farr to perform in a season of plays there. The first production featuring Farr was unsuccessful, and so she prevailed upon her friend, George Bernard Shaw to make his debut in the west end at the theatre with 'Arms And The Man' which proved successful enough to allow him to focus on play writing full time.
In 1905 the Playhouse was rebuilt to the designs of Blow and Billerey, however, during the work, a section of the roof of the adjacent Charing Cross Station collapsed and crashed through the roof and wall of the theatre resulting in the tragic deaths of several people both in the theatre and the station with many others being injured. Once the theatre was repaired it re-opened as The Playhouse Theatre in January 1907 showcasing a one-act play called 'The Drums Of Oudh' with a smaller seating capacity of 679.
Notable productions and performances at the Playhouse include 'Home And Beauty' by W. Somerset Maugham which premièred at the venue on 30th August 1919, and ran for 235 performances, Henry Daniell appeared here in 1926 starring as the Prince of Karaslavia in 'Mr Abdulla'. Nigel Bruce starred in Somerset Maugham's 'The Letter', and again 1930 in 'Dishonoured Lady'. Alec Guiness also made his stage début here in Ward Dorane's play 'Libel' on 2nd April 1934.
In 1951 the theatre was used as a recording studio by the BBC who recorded 'The Goon Show' at the venue along with radio versions of 'Hancock's Half Hour' and 'Steptoe And Son'. Live performances by rock bands also featured including Led Zeppelin, Queen, Kiss, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones all playing there.
With the departure of the BBC in 1976, the theatre went dark and was briefly in danger of demolition, but eventually saved and lovingly restored to its 1907 design by Robin Gonshaw and opened to the public again in October 1987.
Novelist and politician Jeffrey Archer purchased the Playhouse in 1988 for just over £1 million, and the theatre was offered commercial sponsorship by a financial services' company the following year and was known as the 'MI Group Playhouse'.
The Playhouse became home to the Peter Hall Company in 1991 leading to a number of commercially successful plays being performed there to critical acclaim.
Jeffrey Archer sold the Playhouse in 1992 to Ray Cooney for just over £2 million who went on later that year to stage the west-end premiere of 'Runs In The Family 'at the venue and was followed in 1993 by 'Jane Eyre', 'On Approval' in 1994, and the following year, 'Ray Cooney's Funny Money'.
Cooney sold the Playhouse Theatre in 1996 to American banker Patrick Sulaiman Cole whose first production was a revival of Ibsen's 'A Dolls House' which played to critical acclaim. The theatre closed later that year for a complete refurbishment and reopened again in 1997 with the west-end première of Anton Chekhov's 'The Wood Demon' followed by a first ever west-end Snoo Wilson premier, "HRH," directed by Simon Callow, which unfortunately opened the day after the tragic death of Princess Diana. The play received harsh reviews as being anti-Royal, and the theatre then returned to life as a commercial receiving house.
Notable recent successes at the Playhouse have included 'Naked' in 1998, J.B. Priestley's thrilling play 'An Inspector Calls' and 'Journey's End'. The theatre was bought by Maidstone Productions in 2002, and the venue is now being managed by the Ambassadors Theatre Group.
Tickets to all productions at the Playhouse Theatre can be booked securely online through this website.