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The Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, London, WC2

 

Above - The Arts Theatre in October 2006. -  Photo M.L.

Above - The Arts Theatre in October 2006.

 

 

See London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsThe Arts Theatre, designed by P. Morley Horder who converted an existing building internally at a cost of £18,500, opened on the 20th of April 1927 with a review called 'Picnic' which was produced by Harold Scott. The building was designed as a Club for anyone interested in Theatre, public or professional, with a small intimate Theatre included and an auditorium which held 300 people.

 

Programme for the Bank Of England Operatic, Dramatic & Orchestral Society production of 'Nothing Over Ninepence' at the Arts Theatre in April 1937.Programme for the Bank Of England Operatic, Dramatic & Orchestral Society production of 'Nothing Over Ninepence' at the Arts Theatre in April 1937.The Arts Theatre is famous for producing new, and often quite controversial, plays, often by new playwrights, and has had many successes over the years. Many plays at the Arts have gone on to transfer to major West End Theatres.

Right - A Programme for the Bank Of England Operatic, Dramatic & Orchestral Society production of 'Nothing Over Ninepence' at the Arts Theatre in April 1937.

A Seating Plan for the Arts Theatre, probably 1970s.Because the Arts Theatre started out as a Private Club it was not held under the censorship regulations of the time and often put on plays that were otherwise banned in the major West End Theatres.

Left - A Seating Plan for the Arts Theatre, probably 1970s.

In 1942 Alec Clunes took over the running of the buildng very successfully and the Theatre, with its own Arts Theatre Company, became something of a mini National Theatre until 1953. One of his major successes was 'Maria Marten' or 'The Murder in the Old Red Barn' in 1952, which was based on a true story. See programme and text below for more details.

The Arts Theatre, although often successful, has been under threat of demolition many times, most recently in 2006, and its future is far from certain.

William Corder, who was a farmer in Suffolk, had a mistress, Maria Marten, who was eager to marry him. However she was poor, single, and had two children, one by William Corder and one by someone else. She had also had a relationship with Corder's brother. William led her on for a long time but eventually, promising to marry her, he took her to Ipswich. She was never seen again. The legend goes that Maria's mother had a reoccurring dream, three nights in a row, that Maria was calling from a Red Barn near her home. Feeling sure it was a sign she sent her husband to investigate the barn and he discovered that there had been digging in the area recently. Maria's body was found and William Corder, who had by this time married someone else and was living in London, was arrested and found guilty of Maria's murder. He was hanged for his crimes.

 

Programme for 'Maria Marten' or 'The Murder in the Old Red Barn' at the Arts Theatre, Christmas 1952

Programme for 'Maria Marten' or 'The Murder in the Old Red Barn' at the Arts Theatre, Christmas 1952

Above - Programme for 'Maria Marten' or 'The Murder in the Old Red Barn' at the Arts Theatre, Christmas 1952 - "Revised and Reformed and the company assembled and rehearsed by Mr. A. Clunes." Alec Clunes was the father of Martin Clunes and revised the show, which was originally a Victorian Melodrama based on the true story of the murder of Maria Marten in 1827. Another production of this play was produced at the Hackney Empire in 1956 with Tod Slaughter playing the lead.

 

The Arts Theatre in October 2006 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Arts Theatre in October 2006 - Photo M.L.

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