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The Theatre Royal Drury Lane - Main Entrance now on Catherine Street, Westminster, London

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane during production for the new musical version of Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' in May 2013.

Above - The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane during production for the new musical version of Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' in May 2013.

 

 

See a Seating Plan for this Theatre with non commercial and independent opinions on the best seats to book - From Seatplan.co.ukSee London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsThere have been four Theatres built on the site of the present Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The first was built by the dramatist Thomas Killigrew under charter from Charles II, and opened on May the 7th, 1663. Consequently on May the 7th 2013 the Theatre celebrated its 350th anniversary. This first Theatre was very successful but was destroyed by fire in 1672.

 

An Entrance Token for the Pit of the first Theatre Royal, Drury Lane dated 1671, the year before the Theatre was destroyed by fire - Courtesy Alan Judd.An Entrance Token for the Pit of the first Theatre Royal, Drury Lane dated 1671, the year before the Theatre was destroyed by fire - Courtesy Alan Judd.Left - Both sides of an Entrance Token for the Pit of the first Theatre Royal, Drury Lane dated 1671, the year before the Theatre was destroyed by fire - Courtesy Alan Judd.

The second Theatre, built on the site of the first, is thought to have been designed by the architect Sir Christopher Wren and opened in 1674. This is the Theatre which David Garrick ran with great success from 1747 to 1776. Garrick was followed by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, with such notable Thesbians as Sarah Siddons and John Philip Kemble taking the stage. This second Theatre was demolished in 1791.

 

An Entrance Token for the Pit of the second Theatre Royal, Drury Lane dated 1684 , 10 years after the Theatre had been built - Courtesy Alan Judd. An Entrance Token for the Pit of the second Theatre Royal, Drury Lane dated 1684 , 10 years after the Theatre had been built - Courtesy Alan Judd. Right - Both sides of an Entrance Token for the Pit of the second Theatre Royal, Drury Lane dated 1684 , 10 years after the Theatre had been built - Courtesy Alan Judd.

The Third Theatre Royal, Drury Lane was constructed between 1791 and 1794 by Henry Holland and was billed as a "Fireproof Theatre." but sadly this Theatre burnt down only 16 years later in 1809.

The Forth and present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which on the 10th of October 2012 celebrated its bicentenary, was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and opened on the 10th of October 1812. This is the Theatre where Edmund Kean ruled with huge success for many years. The Theatre went into decline after his departure but was revived in 1879 by Augustus Harris. The following decades saw the beginning of the great Drury Lane spectaculars, and annual pantomimes with Dan Leno, Will Evans and the like. And in the 1900s the legendary actors Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Johnston Forbes Robertson took the Theatre by storm.

 

One of the Grand Staircases in the newly restored Front of House at the Theatre royal Drury Lane on its unveiling day of the 15th of May 2013 - Photo M.L. - Click for more images.The Theatre's Front of House areas, specifically the Rotunda, Grand Saloon, and magnificent staircases, were the subject of a major refurbishment in 2013 by the Theatre's owner Andrew Lloyd Webber whose wish was to return it to its original Regency splendour.

Left - One of the Grand Staircases in the newly restored Front of House at the Theatre royal Drury Lane on its unveiling day of the 15th of May 2013 - Photo M.L. - Click for more images.

The unveiling of the £4m restoration was on the 15th of May 2013 and revealed the Theatre's original colour scheme, cleaned and restored paintings and statues, and the Grand Saloon's anti rooms being restored to their original use. Some more photographs taken on the day of the unveiling can be seen here.

 

A Bill advertising 'The Way to Keep Him' and 'Cinderella' produced at the third Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on February the 2nd 1804 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill and now preserved in the Drury Lane archive. The 1908 Fire damage - Click for more information and images.In 1908 a serious fire threatened to destroy the Theatre again but due to the actions of the fire services and the lowering of the safety curtain only the stage house and some backstage areas were destroyed leaving the auditorium and front of house intact. You can read a report of this fire, with many photographs of the damage here. And see the reopening production Programme for 'The Marriages of Mayfair' in the Autumn of 1908 here.

Left - A Bill advertising 'The Way to Keep Him' and 'Cinderella' produced at the third Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on February the 2nd 1804 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill and now preserved in the Drury Lane archive.

A Fan commemorating the opening of the third Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1794 - Click for Details

Above - A Fan commemorating the opening of the third Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1794 - Click for Details

In the Second World War Drury Lane became the headquarters of ENSA, the Entertainments National Service Association, and afterwards has been home to a string of highly successful musicals, usually on a huge scale. This is where 'My Fair Lady' with Rex Harrison first opened and ran for five years, and where 'Miss Saigon' is notable for being the longest ever run at Drury Lane, ten years in all.

There is much information on this World famous Theatre already in existence, in a great many places, so the rest of this page will attempt to show images and text that may not be so well known.

In 1922 the Theatre's auditorium was radically reconstructed by Emblin Walker, Jones & Cromie. Out went the old Horse Shoe shaped auditorium with its four circles, and in its place arose a completely new auditorium with three circles.

 

The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after Frederick Gye's redecoration of 1847 - From the Illustrated London News, October 16th, 1847.

Above - The auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after Frederick Gye's redecoration of 1847 - From the Illustrated London News, October 16th, 1847. Caption reads:- 'Drury Lane Theatre, Redecorated - Jullien's Promenade Concert'.

A sketch of the original auditorium and stage of the Fourth Theatre Royal Drury Lane as seen from the uppermost box during a performance of 'Little Bo Peep, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hop-O' My Thumb' in 1892. The scene on stage was 'The Grand Hall of a Million Mirrors at the Prince's Palace - From the Graphic, 31st December 1892.

Above - A sketch of the original auditorium and stage of the Fourth Theatre Royal Drury Lane as seen from the uppermost box during a performance of 'Little Bo Peep, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hop-O' My Thumb' in 1892. The scene on stage was 'The Grand Hall of a Million Mirrors at the Prince's Palace - From the Graphic, 31st December 1892.

A sketch of the original auditorium, stage, FOH, and backstage of the Fourth Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1910 during the run of the Pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk' - Illustrated London News 1910 - Courtesy Mark Fox, Really Useful Theatres - Click to Enlarge and for more information.

Above - A sketch of the original auditorium, stage, FOH, and backstage of the Fourth Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1910 during the run of the Pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk' - Illustrated London News 1910 - Courtesy Mark Fox, Really Useful Theatres - Click to Enlarge and for more information.

 

Pre 1907 Drury Lane seating plan - Click to enlarge. Plan of exits from a Drury Lane programme 1887 - Click to enlargeThe Stage Newspaper reported on the reconstruction of the Theatre's auditorium in their 16th of March 1922 edition saying: 'The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane has, by a wonderful scheme of reconstruction, been transformed from an old, ugly building into a new, elegant, comfortable and commodious theatre. The work of reconstruction is the more remarkable because, for doubtless good reasons, the exterior walls had to be left standing, and all the old rubbish and new material had to be taken out and brought in through existing doorways or holes cut through the walls. Further, the work of demolition and of reconstruction had to go on together, new internal walls and piers having to be built in places before it was safe to pull down in others. The job, therefore, was a difficult one for both architect and builder. How well they have each done their work is shown by the veritable "transformation scene" that has taken place within the walls of "Old Drury."

Above Right - A Plan of the exits from the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1887, and a seating plan for the present Theatre before 1907, both before the auditorium was reconstructed in 1922 - Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

 

A Photograph of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane's auditorium before its 1922 reconstruction.

Above - A Photograph of the original auditorium and stage of the fourth Theatre Royal, Drury Lane before its 1922 reconstruction.

The 1922 reconstructed auditorium of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in a photograph taken in 2004 - Photo M.L.Unusual difficulties were encountered in carrying out the architect's designs. For one thing, every bit of the old work left standing had to be tested, and generally strengthened. Further, the condition or even the exact positions of these old pieces of structural work were not, in many cases, known. All sorts of curious conditions and even irregularities of construction were discovered during the work of demolition - relics of the old building of 1812 and of the various alterations the old edifice had undergone. One result was that the architect's plans had, in several cases, to be modified to meet these unforeseeable obstacles, and many minor feats of applied engineering had to be performed by the contractor. The bringing in of the steel girders to bridge the proscenium span, 88 ft. wide, themselves measuring 6 ft deep and weighing hundreds of tons, and the moving back of the great steel safety curtain on the stage for the widening of the proscenium were triumphs of skill - performed, as they were, within the restricted area of the four square walls of the old building.

Right - The 1922 reconstructed auditorium of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in a photograph taken in 2004 - Photo ML - Click for many more pictures.

The former horseshoe shape of the auditorium has been replaced by a rectangular arena, thus allowing far more space for seating. The four old circles and gallery have been replaced by three new circles, and these have been extended inwards, so that they each hold twelve instead of six rows of seats. To provide this greater spacing, the galleries project, in some cases, for an extra 16 feet. The overhanging portions are constructed on the cantilever system, so that there are no pillars or any other obstructions to the view of the stage from any seat the house. On the first tier there is a spacious apartment for Royalty, and there are twenty one large, comfortable boxes. The well for the orchestra has been enlarged, in view of giving performances of grand opera. Another important alteration is the provision of commodious dressing rooms for the artists - a thing too often lacking in the old insanitary days of theatre construction. The stalls are now reached by a new short stairway, running direct from the main entrance hall; the pit is raised so as to overlook the whole ground floor.

 

The 1922 reconstructed auditorium of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in a photograph taken in 2004 - Photo M.L.An important feature of the scheme was the new roof, which has replaced the old one. It has been raised some 8 feet higher than the level of the old one; it will not obstruct the view of the last man in the topmost row of the highest gallery, and it will give greater air space, and allow of more thorough ventilation.

Left - The 1922 reconstructed auditorium of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in a photograph taken in 2004 - Photo ML - Click for many more pictures.

Behind the topmost seats in the upper gallery, a projection cabin has been built. It it the largest of its kind, having a floor area 32 feet by 17 feet, and it houses twenty powerful lamps for the flooding of the stage with any kind of powerful or coloured light. The cabin, and indeed the whole roof, has been constructed of ferro-concrete, which materiel has entered large, into the formation of many of the structural features of the practically new building. (Note: This 'projection cabin' is still in use today as the Theatre's Followspot Box - ML)

 

The 1922 reconstructed auditorium of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in a photograph taken in 2004 - Photo M.L.The ventilation of the new 'Old Drury' has been most thoroughly and scientifically carried out. Besides all the now usual means for exhausting the vitiated atmosphere of large, crowded buildings, there is installed the latest system of ventilation known. The fresh air admitted into the theatre will be not only filtered by passing through sanitary cotton-wool, but, also by being forced through a spray of water, which, also can be blended with disinfecting liquids.

Right - The 1922 reconstructed auditorium of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in a photograph taken in 2004 - Photo ML - Click for many more pictures.

Exteriorly the theatre has been redecorated, the old walls, columns, and piers made good, and distempered and painted pleasing colours. Internally the house has been decorated and upholstered in the latest Styles of theatre art ornamentation.

It is probable that sentiment prevented the demolition of the outer walls, and though the cost of rebuilding was great - over £100,000 - it was doubtless worth it, for the maintenance of the old traditions and associations connected with London's oldest theatre.'

The above text in quotes was first published in The Stage, 16th of March 1922.

The Theatres Trust says of the present day Drury Lane auditorium:- This is the last auditorium to be designed in the rich fin-de-sièe manner established by Matcham, Sprague & Crewe.'

 

A Wonderfully Drawn Mid 1920s Seating Plan for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

Above - A Wonderfully Drawn Mid 1920s Seating Plan for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

 

Some personal recollections of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

A wonderful photograph of the auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which also shows the safety curtain - Courtesy Jeremy Hoare.

Above - A wonderful photograph of the auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which also shows the safety curtain with the message 'For Thine Especial Safety' - Courtesy Jeremy Hoare.

A Programme for the Drury Lane production of 'A Chorus Line' in July 1976 - Courtesy Linda Chadwick.A Programme for the London Palladium production of 'A Chorus Line' in February 2013.I have strong connections with the Theatre Royal Drury Lane myself and have worked there on and off for many years, firstly on Miss Saigon, and then 'My Fair Lady' 'Anything Goes' 'The Producers' and more recently on 'Lord of the Rings', 'Shrek the Musical', and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory'. The first production I saw at the Theatre however, was way back in July 1976 when I saw the Broadway and London casts in 'A Chorus Line.' The production was revived for the first time in February 2013 at the London Palladium and was an almost exact recreation of the original and wonderful to see again after all those years.

Left - A Programme for the Drury Lane production of 'A Chorus Line' in July 1976 - Courtesy Linda Chadwick.

Right - A Programme for the London Palladium production of 'A Chorus Line' in February 2013.

 

T.C. King, Father in law to Arthur Lloyd, and my Maternal Great Great Grandfather was a famed Drury Lane Tragedian in the mid 1800s, and my Paternal Great Great Grandfather, Horatio Lloyd, who was Arthur Lloyd's father, visited the Theatre on many occasions and writes about it in his Autobiography of 1886, which is a fascinating and contemporary account of a working actor in the mid 1800s. In one section he writes about seeing Kean and Liston at Drury Lane on the same night. I have included an extract of this below, which I think helps to bring this period in the Theatre's history to life.

"Amongst the greatest and the most popular performers of the other sex whom I have seen and remember, are - or rather were, for it must be about 20 years since the last survivor of them departed- Charles Kemble, Charles Young, Ward, Fawcett, Jones, William Farren, the elder; Blanchard, Tyrone Power, Harley, Mcready, the elder Chas. Matthews, Terry Yates, T. P. Coocke, James Wallack, John Reeve, Wright, Buckstone, Robert Keeley, Knight, Liston, and the immortal Edmund Keen.

An advertisement in the Times Newspaper of the 8th of December 1823 advertising 'King Richard The Third' and 'Love Law and Physic' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on the same night, and the night in which Horatio Lloyd was in attendance at the Theatre for the first time.The two last named I saw for the first time at Drury Lane, on the same evening. First Kean as Richard III., and then Liston as Lubin Log, In the favourite farce of those days, "Love, Law, and Physic." I can never forget the intense delight which afforded me.

Right - An advertisement in The Times Newspaper of the 8th of December 1823 advertising 'King Richard The Third' and 'Love Law and Physic' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on the same night, and the night in which Horatio Lloyd was in attendance at the Theatre for the first time.

The magnificence of the theatre, the delightful music, the crowded auditorium, and the grand acting produced by a combination which enraptured my young brains. Subsequent to this I visited "Old Drury" regularly once a week.

A Bill advertising Edmund Keen in 'Bride of Abydos' and 'Midnight Hour' at the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on March the 5th 1818, just 6 years after the Theatre opened.Every Monday evening found me quietly ensconced in the right-hand corner of the front seat of the two shilling gallery anxiously awaiting the rising of the great green curtain. It was here and thus that I so often witnessed the performances of the two great stars I have mentioned-Liston more particularly. Although poor Kean's powers were evidently on the wane in the eyes of those who had enjoyed his earlier years, there was no such drawback in my case.

Left - A Bill advertising Edmund Keen in 'Bride of Abydos' and 'Midnight Hour' at the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on March the 5th 1818, just 6 years after the Theatre opened.

I had never seen him in his prime, and in all he said or did now I could see no fault, but everything to admire. Liston took me captive completely. I saw him in all his popular parts, and consider him the most glorious low comedian I ever saw and listened to. He must have been made expressly for a comedian.

He was remarkably ugly-that is to say, in so far as the physiognomy was concerned. Plump cheeks, one larger than the other, a turn up nose, and a twist on one side of the mouth-these were his leading facial features. But he was a tall gentlemanly man, with a very handsome figure. His face alone made the audience roar with laughter before he spoke a word. He would come on the stage and stand silently looking at them, as if overcome with surprise, mingled with disgust at their rudeness.

Then when he had got them almost into convulsions by his simple power of facial expression, he would begin muttering to himself, turn his back to them, and walk up the stage. This was the last straw; for the reason that the exhibition of the unusually ample proportions in the rear with which Nature had been pleased to endow him was considered by his faithful patrons to be the acme of humour. With this sort of pantomime he would keep them into fits for five or six minutes without uttering a word. I repeat that I consider him to be the greatest low comedian I ever beheld. It was no acting; it was the man himself- nature- and that made his drolleries so acceptable."

The above text in quotes above is from Horatio Lloyd's Autobiography 1886.

Horatio Lloyd's 'Two Shilling Gallery'

A photograph taken inside the present Drury Lane roof void  - M.L. 2004.

Above - A photograph taken inside the present Drury Lane roof void showing what's left of Horatio's 'two shilling Gallery.

A fragment of original wallpaper from Horatio's 'two shilling Gallery' which still survives in the Drury Lane roof void. M.L. 2004.

Above - A fragment of original wallpaper from Horatio's 'two shilling Gallery' which still survives in the Drury Lane roof void.

 

Will Evans and his Drury Lane Pantomimes

Will Evans in costume as the Baroness in a Drury Lane Pantomine in 1920 - Kindly sent in by his Grandson Bill Evans. Will Evans was famous in his day for comedy sketches and pantomime characters, and was the son of Fred Evans, a clown in the Grimaldi tradition.Will Evans was born on the 29th May 1866, and became a well known name in Music Hall and Pantomime in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was the son of Fred Evans, a clown in the Grimaldi tradition, and made his first appearance with his father when aged just six years old in a production of 'Robinson Crusoe' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1881.

Right - Will Evans in costume as the Baroness in a Drury Lane Pantomine in 1920 - Kindly sent in by his Grandson Bill Evans.

Stanley Lupino, Lily Long, and Will Evans posing for the camera and in costume for the Drury Lane pantomime 'Babes in the Wood' in 1918 - Kindly sent in by Will Evans' grandson Bill Evans.After this he went on tour with his father's comedy company for many years before returning to London in 1890 to perform in the Music Halls with his wife Ada Luxmore.

Left - Stanley Lupino, Lily Long, and Will Evans posing for the camera, and in costume for, the Drury Lane pantomime 'Babes in the Wood' in 1918 - Kindly sent in by Will Evans' grandson Bill Evans.

After his wife died he carried on as a solo artiste and comedian. His specialty was playing in comic domestic dramas, now better known as farces, the most popular of which were `Building a Chicken House', 'Whitewashing the Ceiling', and 'Papering a House'. He was often to be seen in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane's regular Christmas Pantomimes. There is more on Will Evans on this site here.

 

The Drury Lane Pantomime production of 'Sleeping Beauty' 1912/13/14

A silver plated Statue of Wilfrid Douthitt as Prince Auriol in the Drury Lane Pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' probably produced as a gift to the cast of the 1913/14 season - Courtesy Peach Eno.When the Pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' was produced at Drury Lane in 1912 the long tradition of having a woman playing principle boy was changed when they had a man play him instead, Wilfred Douthitt, whilst Florence Smithson played Beauty. The production also featured Will Evans, George Graves, Barry Lupino, Renee Mayer, Charles Rock, and the Poluski Brothers.

Right and Below Left - A silver plated Statue of Wilfrid Douthitt as Prince Auriol in the Drury Lane Pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' probably produced as a gift to the cast of the 1913/14 season - Courtesy Peach Eno. The statue is 23 inches tall and was sculpted by J. Preston Davies. If you have any more information about this statue Please Contact me.

A silver plated Statue of Wilfrid Douthitt as Prince Auriol in the Drury Lane Pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' probably produced as a gift to the cast of the 1913/14 season - Courtesy Peach Eno.The following year the same pantomime was revived for the 1913 Christmas season, although this time it was called 'Sleeping Beauty Reawakened'. The cast for this production was almost the same as in 1912 but Forrester Harvey was added to the cast along with Stanley Lupino who was playing his first role in a Drury Lane Pantomime.

The following year, 1914, War broke out, and Arthur Collins put on 'Sleeping Beauty' again as it was a sure fire hit, if you pardon the pun. This time it was called 'Sleeping Beauty Beautified'. Changes to the cast for this revival included Betram Wallis as the principal boy, and Ferne Rogers as Beauty.

In 1915 another pantomime, Puss in Boots' was produced so ending the three year Christmas run of 'Sleeping Beauty'.

 

Alec Marlow, Master Carpenter at Drury Lane from 1946

Alec Marlow at work on a set at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis. One of the carpenters who worked at the Theatre from 1946, and who went on to become Master Carpenter there until retiring in 1974, was Alec Marlow.

Alec is thought to have worked on around 12,000 performances at the Theatre and was responsible for helping to build and maintain sets for countless famous productions at the Theatre during his years including 'Pacific 1860', 'Oklahoma', 'Carousel', 'South Pacific', 'The King and I', 'Plain and Fancy', 'Fanny', 'My Fair Lady', 'The Boys from Syracuse', 'Camelot', 'Hello Dolly!', 'The Four Musketeers', 'Mame', 'The Great Waltz', 'Gone with the Wind', 'No No Nanette' and 'Billy'.

Right - Alec Marlow at work on a set at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

Alec died in February 2009, aged 102, and his son in law, Phil Davis, has kindly written a biography of him and sent it in for inclusion on this site along with many of Alec's personal photographs to illustrate it, plus many of the images on this page.

Alec Marlow's biography can be found on the site here.

 

George Hoare, General Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane 1958- 1982

A sketch of George Hoare at the Wood Green Empire. George was manager of the Theatre from the late 1940s before becoming General Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1958 - Courtesy his son Jeremy Hoare.George Hoare became General Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane shortly before the musical My Fair Lady began in early 1958. George was 47 and the most experienced manager of Stoll Theatres at the time. His Assistant Manager was Ernest Kingdon and the resident stage staff were Jack Miller, Lou Walton, who was at that time Julie Andrew's father-in-law, George Wright and George Sinclair. This was a period when the Theatre was said to have been the most efficient and friendly Theatre to work in, both FOH and backstage. This was also the time when the General Manager was all powerful, there were no middle managers and he would run everything. He was always dressed immaculately in Evening Dress, and supervised the staff, arranged all the functions, organised Press and Public Relations work and would hire out the Theatre to television and film companies and other bodies. The day-to-day ordering of everything needed in the Theatre was up to him.

Right - A sketch of George Hoare at the Wood Green Empire. George was manager of the Theatre from the late 1940s before becoming General Manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1958 - Courtesy his son Jeremy Hoare.

In his time at Drury Lane George met almost all of the Royal Family when they visited the Theatre, and when he escorted the Queen to the Royal Box on official occasions she would always ask "Are we ready Mr Hoare?". The Queen would also sometimes take her children to a matinee by slipping in at the side door and sitting in the stalls rather than the Royal Box. And it was George who took it upon himself to apply to Buckingham Palace for permission to place the Prince of Wales crest above his box and he was delighted when his request was granted.

During his twenty four years at Drury Lane George was honoured to greet and entertain hundreds of VIPs from all over the world, from the Shah & Empress of Persia and the King & Queen of Thailand to Sir Winston & Lady Churchill and Sir Charles & Lady Chaplin. Winston Churchill gave George one of his famous cigars and no doubt he chatted to Chaplin about his father and Fred Karno.

In 1979 George moved into one of the flats adjoining the rear of the Theatre and so probably had the shortest commute of any employee at Drury Lane. Many people were given their first employment in the Theatre by George. One person in particular, whose job it was to clean and polish the brasswork around the Theatre's entrance, has done very well in the business. He is Sir Cameron Mackintosh who readily acknowledges this first rung on the ladder of success, which in turn he has subsequently turned into employment for numerous people with his sharp eye for good productions.

George retired as General Manager of Drury Lane in 1982 but he continued to be connected with the Theatre as full time Consultant, Historian, and Archivist for Stoll Moss Theatres and began to build up the "George Hoare Theatre Collection" which was housed in the old Treasury Room of the Theatre and is a valuable archive which continues to be added to today.

Right - With a short intro, this is George Hoare's retirement speech in the Grand Saloon of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1982 after being General Manager there for 25 years.

George died on the 17th of August 1997 but is still fondly remembered today by those who knew and worked with him during his time at Drury Lane.

The above text on George Hoare is a brief edited version of the full biography written by his son Jeremy which you can find here and is courtesy and copyright © Jeremy Hoare.

 

Working at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in the 1940s and 1950s by Alan Chudley

Backstage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane by Jimmy Needle - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow - Courtesy Phil Davis. During the war years Drury Lane was the headquarters of ENSA, an organisation that provided professional entertainment for the armed forces, the vast stage at that time was largely partitioned off as offices.

Right - Backstage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane by Jimmy Needle - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow - Courtesy Phil Davis.

My fist visit to Drury Lane was in the summer of 1946 when much to the delight of the Drury Lane staff, ENSA had been disbanded and Drury Lane was set to return to its rightful use as a public theatre. The purpose of my visit was to purchase some of the ENSA lighting equipment then being sold off, our transport was a very small borrowed grocers trade van and we were trying to get a switchboard into that van. Walter McQueen Pope the Drury Lane publicity man and historian was walking along Russell Street with some other gentlemen, one of whom said to Mr McQueen Pope; "Five shillings says they do not make it Walter," Egged on by Walter we finally got the switchboard into the van, I was to learn later that the gentlemen was our sovereign King George V1, and that the bet was honoured.

During the 1951 Festival of Britain I was involved under the direction of Mc Queen Pope to show American visitors over Drury Lane on Sundays. Mc Queen Pope used to delight in showing them the green Room, the actors sitting room, where many years ago an Actor named Macklin killed another actor during a quarrel over a wig.

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane during the run of 'Fanny' in 1958 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins.The son of the killed Actor fled to the United States and started what was considered to be the first American Theatre. Mc Queen pope would show the American tourists the fireplace where the killing took place any proudly announce; "That is where your Theatre started"

About that time I was one of a gang of casual workers whose task it was to replace the lighting control at Drury Lane with a brand new Strand Electric Organ Consul, up to then, "Okalahoma" the current show, was lit by a motley collection of switchboards which included a "Moy" board installed early in the 20th century plus a Strand Grand Master board installed for "Cavalcade" during the 1930s plus several portable hired Strand potables boards.

Left - The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane during the run of 'Fanny' in 1958 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins.

Later under the direction of Lou Walton, the Drury Lane master carpenter, I was engaged as a casual on several Drury Lane fit-ups which included "Fanny" in which one of the famous stage bridges was used to provide a underground nightclub, sadly "Fanny" was not a success and a lot of people lost a lot of money.

This article was kindly written for the site by Alan Chudley.

 

Augustus Harris at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1879

The memorial fountain to Augustus Harris - From the book 'Theatre Royal Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope 1945.Augustus Harris ran Drury Lane from 1879 and put on a huge number of extremely popular and lavish pantomimes and spectacular shows. He became very well known by the British public and people would flock to see a Harris show, indeed he turned round the fortunes of the Theatre from failure to immense success. Harris died on the 22nd of June 1896 at the age of 44 having controlled Drury Lane for 17 years.

Right - The memorial fountain to Augustus Harris, erected outside the front of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after his death - From the book 'The Theatre Royal Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope 1945.

Harris's first production at the Lane in 1879 was 'Henry V' with George Rignold in the leading part. This was an immediate success and the Theatre was full to bursting every night.

A signed card from the much loved Music hall artiste Marie Lloyd - Courtesy Tony Craig who says 'The Card was given to my Grandma and Granddad when they worked with her in 1914.After this Harris staged the pantomime 'Bluebeard' at Christmas and it is said that it was 'the most spectacular pantomime London had ever seen.'

After this Harris staged a series of dramas at the Theatre and then went on to stage another pantomime the following Christmas, 'Mother Goose' and this time he had comedians from the Music Halls playing the leads, something which had never been tried before, with artistes including Kate Santley, James Fawn, and Arthur Roberts.

Indeed over the years most of the big names in Music Hall appeared in Harris's pantomimes including Nellie Power, Vesta Tilley, Herbert Campbell, Little Titch, Arthur Williams, Marie Lloyd (shown left), and many more.

Left - A signed card from the much loved Music hall artiste Marie Lloyd - Courtesy Tony Craig who says 'The Card was given to my Grandma and Granddad when they worked with her in 1914.

 

The memorial fountain to Augustus Harris in a photo shot during the run of 'Lord Of The Rings' in 2007 - Photo M.L.Harris's pantomimes were lavish affairs costing £5,000 to £6,000 a piece, a vast sum in those days, but it certainly paid off. Soon becoming known as Augustus Druryolanus, a name he coined himself, Harris could do no wrong. He co-wrote and played in many of his dramas and pantomimes himself, and put on all manner of productions at the Theatre including plays, dramas, pantomimes, variety, and opera.

A drinking glass with the words 'Augustus Harris' engraved on the bowl - Courtesy Ruth Allison.By the time of his death Augustus Harris controlled six or seven Theatres, many touring companies, and other businesses, and at one time he had even owned and written regularly for the Sunday Times newspaper.

Left - The memorial fountain to Augustus Harris in a photo shot during the run of 'Lord Of The Rings' in 2007 - Photo ML

Such was his popularity that after he died a drinking fountain was placed outside the front of the Theatre, erected as a tribute to Harris, paid for by public subscription, and the fountain is still there today.

A visitor to the site, Ruth Allison, has recently sent in this photograph of a glass in her possession which has the words August Harris engraved on the bowl. Although I have never seen a mention of this glass before it is my assumption that it was probably one of several made to toast Augustus Harris on the unveiling of his memorial fountain outside the Theatre. If you have any more information about this glass please Contact me.

Right - A drinking glass with the words 'Augustus Harris' engraved on the bowl - Courtesy Ruth Allison.

 

Some Notable Drury Lane Productions

Sins of Society 1907 - Click for details Centenary Programme - EveryWoman 1912 - Click for deatils Ben Hur 1902 - Click for details Pleasure 1897 - Click for details

Sins of Society 1907 - Centenary Programme of Every Woman 1912 - Ben Hur 1902 - Pleasure 1897

 

The Drury Lane production of 'The Armada' in 1888
From the Pillars of Drury Lane by W. Macqueen Pope, 1955

Armada Coin very kindly donated by Alan Harvey.A production of outstanding merit in every way at Drury Lane was 'The Armada,' produced in 1888 to mark the tercentenary of the defeat of that so-called Invincible Fleet. It was written by Henry Hamilton and Gus Harris. It had a big cast which included Winifred Emery, Ada Neilson, Leonard Boyne (hero), Luigi Lablache, Harry Nicholls, Victor Stevens, and many more. Here was a story of love and adventure finely told and wonderfully staged. A wicked Spaniard carries off the fair English girl (played by Winifred Emery), and the hero, Vyvyan Foster (Leonard Boyne), goes in pursuit. There was the villain's palace in Madrid where he threatens to hand the girl over to the Inquisition if she will not surrender to him. The hero, being a hero, got access to her and said he would come to the rescue. His ship was attacked and there was a most spirited fight. Vyvyan captured his attacker, no less a person than the Alcalde, and from him wrung the secret of when the Armada is to sail. What is he to do—return at once and warn his country, or stay and rescue his girl? Love or duty? Duty wins and he sails for home, but tells the Spaniards he holds the Alcalde as hostage for his sweetheart's safety. He sees Queen Elizabeth, and the great commanders, Effingham, Walsingham, Raleigh, Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher. He calls for volunteers, in a very beautiful scene representing the village of Charing, in Kent. Naturally, he gets them.

Armada Coin very kindly donated by Alan Harvey.The famous Bowls scene on Plymouth Hoe was reproduced—after the picture by Seymour Lucas—and there was a perfectly marvellous reproduction of the English Fleet fighting the Armada, which drew volleys of applause. The little matter of defeating the Armada being over, the hero went to Spain to get his girl. She was in the hands of the Inquisition and was condemned to death. There she stood, in the next scene, tied to the stake, with the howling populace all about her and the deadly torches about to be applied to the pyre, whilst the priests chant the miserere. And then, through the throng, burst the hero and his gallant crew. In a fight they cut down the Spaniards and cut loose the girl. And so back to England, with a knighthood for the hero from the sword of Queen Bess and a pageant of her triumphant progress to St. Paul's—a happy wedding —red fire—the final curtain and a delighted and enthusiastic audience. No better piece of stagecraft was ever seen than that battle with the Armada. To advertise this play Harris issued tens of thousands of little metal coins, of brass, and about the size of sovereigns. On one side it said '1588 The Armada 1888'—surrounded by the words 'Drury Lane Theatre Every Evening'. On the other there was a representation of a sea fight, surrounded by the words `Augustus Harris, Lessee and Manager 1888'. Thousands of those little 'coins' still exist and people write to Drury Lane concerning them and ask if they have any value. Except as curios, they have none. These words may reach the eyes of those who may come across one—and are thus answered.

Text edited from 'The Pillars of Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope, 1955. - Armada Coin very kindly donated by Alan Harvey.

 

The Drury Lane production of 'The Whip' in 1909

A Postcard showing a scene from 'The Whip' 1909 - Click for more images and details of this production

Above - A Postcard showing a scene from 'The Whip' 1909

Click here for more images and details of this production

 

The Baddeley Cake

Ginger Rogers cutting the Baddeley Cake during the run of ''Mame' - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.The Baddeley cake is named after Robert Baddeley who was a popular actor at Drury Lane for many years until he died in 1794 during the run of his most celebrated part, Moses in 'School for Scandal.'

Right - Ginger Rogers cutting the Baddeley Cake during the run of ''Mame' - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

The Baddeley Cake during the run of 'South Pacific' - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis. Baddeley left instructions that on the death of his wife 'certain monies' were 'to go to the society established for the relief of indigent persons belonging to Drury Lane Theatre.'

Left - The Baddeley Cake during the run of 'South Pacific' - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

The Baddeley Cake during the run of 'Mame' - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis. And amongst other requests he also left provision that the interest from £100 be used on the Twelfth Night of every year for the purchase of a cake, with wine and punch, for the Drury Lane Company in residence to partake of in the Green Room of the Theatre so that they might remember him.

Right - The Baddeley Cake during the run of 'Mame.' The man on the left of the photo is William F. Budd. He was secretary of the Theatre Royal Fund and had worked at the Lane, and was stage and Company Manager there for the production of Gone With The Wind, and was also was manager of the Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

Remarkably this tradition has survived and Baddeley is indeed celebrated and remembered each year on the 6th of January to this day.

 

The Cake made to celebrate the Theatre's Tri-centenary year, 1963, which also celebrated the long run of 'My Fair Lady' which opened at the Theatre in 1958 and ran for 5 years. -  From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

Above - The Cake made to celebrate the Theatre's Tri-centenary year, 1963, which also celebrated the long run of 'My Fair Lady' which opened at the Theatre in 1958 and ran for 5 years. This may also have been a Baddeley cake but I'm not sure about that, perhaps you know - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

The Baddeley Cake Celebration during the run of Shrek the Musical at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Sunday the 6th of January 2013, the first time the Baddeley Cake has been cut on a Sunday since it first began. The Grand Saloon where the celebration took place was closed for major renovation and restoration the day after this photograph was taken - Photo M.L.

Above - The Baddeley Cake Celebration during the run of Shrek the Musical at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Sunday the 6th of January 2013, the first time the Baddeley Cake has been cut on a Sunday since it first began. The Grand Saloon where the celebration took place was closed for major renovation and restoration the day after this photograph was taken.

The Baddeley Cake Celebration during the run of Shrek the Musical at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Sunday the 6th of January 2013 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Baddeley Cake Celebration during the run of Shrek the Musical at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Sunday the 6th of January 2013 - Photo M.L.

The cast and crew of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory celebrate the cutting of the Baddeley Cake at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Monday the 6th of January 2014.

Above - The cast and crew of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory celebrate the cutting of the Baddeley Cake at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Monday the 6th of January 2014.

The very inventive Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Baddeley Cake at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Monday the 6th of January 2014.

Above - The very inventive Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Baddeley Cake at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Monday the 6th of January 2014.

 

The Staff Bar

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane staff enjoying a drink in the Theatre's staff bar .

Above and Below - Three photographs of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane staff enjoying a drink in the Theatre's staff bar which was situated in the basement of the Theatre and which is now the lighting department's crew room and workshop - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane staff enjoying a drink in the Theatre's staff bar Staff enjoying a drink in the Theatre's staff bar which was situated in the basement of the Theatre and which is now the lighting department's crew room and workshop - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow, former Master Carpenter at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane - Courtesy Phil Davis.

 

The Substage Machinery and Lifts at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

The ancient substage machinery which used hydraulics to lift and lower the stage in various ways, Grade I listed. Click to see more substage photos taken in 2006, and also many photos taken in 2008 of the Lifts in action again after many decades lying silent.

After the run of 'Lord of the Rings' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2008 the Grade I Listed substage machinery and Stage Lifts, which had not worked for many decades, had to be reinstated because much of it was removed to house the production's multi-lifting revolve, this was stipulated by English Heritage before it was allowed to be removed because of its Grade I Listed status. During the reinstation the machinery was once again made to work. There are many more photos of the substage machinery and the working lifts after the reinstation on this site here.

 

View from the roof of Drury Lane

360 view of London from the roof of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane - Click to enlarge.

Above - 360 view of London from the roof of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane - Click to enlarge.

 

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, bomb damage in 1940

The Stalls and Circle of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the morning after the bomb hit the Theatre during the scond world war. From the book 'Pillars of Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope 1955 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

Above - The Stalls and Circle of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the morning after the bomb hit the Theatre during the second world war. From the book 'Pillars of Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope 1955 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

Caption reads 'Members of the Drury Lane staff amongst whom the nosecap of the bomb fell when an H.E. hit the theatre in 1940. These men were actually sleeping in the wrecked room and escaped undamaged. The inscribed nosecap is seen amongst them.' From the book 'Theatre Royal Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope 1945 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

Above - Caption reads 'Members of the Drury Lane staff amongst whom the nosecap of the bomb fell when an H.E. hit the theatre in 1940. These men were actually sleeping in the wrecked room and escaped undamaged. The inscribed nosecap is seen amongst them.' From the book 'Theatre Royal Drury Lane' by W. Macqueen Pope 1945 - Courtesy Piers Caunter.

The actual nosecap of the bomb, now displayed in the Theatre's foyer - M.L. 2004

Above - The actual nosecap of the bomb, now displayed in the Theatre's foyer

 

The Romance of London Theatres by Ronald Mayes

No. 110. Drury Lane (1660-1809)

From a London Pavilion Programme 1930

The Romance of London Theatres by Ronald MayesIn 1660 the Master of the Revels issued a permit to Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant to "erect two companies of players . . . and to build two houses or theatres. Davenant's letters patent eventually made their way to the hands of John Rich who built Covent Garden Theatre. Killigrew purchased from the Earl of Bedford a forty-one years' lease of a piece of ground situated in the two parishes of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, and St Martin`s-in-the Fileds.

During the building of the theatre Killigrew's Company performed in a temporary building in Bear Yard, near Lincoln's Inn Fields. The New Theatre in Drury Lane was built at a cost of fifteen hundred pounds, the dimensions of which were one hundred and twelve feet by fifty-nine feet. It was opened in 1663 with Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy, "The Humorous Lieutenant," of which Pepy's writes, " a silly play 1 think-only the spirit in it that grows very tall and then sinks again to nothing, having two heads breeding upon one, and then Knipp's singing did please us."

To this period also belongs that incarnation of frolic and merriment, Nell Gwynne. It is popularly supposed that as a child she sold oranges in the pit of Drury Lane and made her way to the stage at the early age of fifteen. Pepys tells us that lie kissed her.

The second. theatre built by Sir Christopher Wren was opened on March 26th, 1674. Here for many years Thomas Betterton held sway. Silvertone Betterton first served his apprenticeship at the "Cockpit," and was a universal favourite at old Drury. He took a farewell "benefit" here in 1709, when in his seventy-fifth year, finally retiring from the stage and dying in 1710.

Early 20th Century Postcard of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane .The theatre is next intimately associated with Colley Cibber, manager and dramatist, and for twenty-seven years Poet Laureate. During this period we have James Quin, for long the favourite tragedian of the town, Macklin and Peg Woffington.

Left - An early 20th Century Postcard of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Cibber was followed by David Garrick who was there from 1747 to 1776. Garrick restored Shakespeare, which had been grossly neglected and introduced several improvements in stage display. Sheridan next comes to the front as manager, presiding over such great actors as Mrs. Siddons, John and Charles Kemble, and John Henderson. The theatre was pulled down in 1791 and rebuilt three years later.

The Long Dock behind the stage at Drury Lane. This is used for temporary storage of equipment and for the cast and crew to get from one side of the stage to the other during performances.The Kembles were the principal attraction at Drury Lane until they withdrew in 1803, when the fortunes of the theatre were seriously affected. We are told that Sheridan's translation of "The Death of Rolla," brought him in £25,000 in five weeks.

Drury Lane Theatre was destroyed by fire in 1809, when Sheridan was at the House of Commons. He left and went to a little coffee house opposite his property and drank a bottle of port with his friend Barry, coolly remarking, "it was hard if a man could not drink a glass of wine by his own fire." The Romance of London Theatres by Ronald Mayes - From a London Pavilion Programme in 1930.

Right - The Long Dock behind the stage at Drury Lane. This is used for temporary storage of equipment and for the cast and crew to get from one side of the stage to the other during performances. Leading off from this to the right is the 'Paint Frame,' where backdrops for many shows are still created.

 

The Drury Lane Charter

A 1949 Copy of the Drury Lane Charter of 1663 currently displayed in the basement of the Theatre's backstage area Photo M.L.

A 1949 Copy of the Drury Lane Charter of 1663 currently displayed in the basement of the Theatre's backstage area Photo M.L.

Above - A 1949 Copy of the Drury Lane Charter of 1663
currently displayed in the basement of the Theatre's backstage area - Photo M.L.

 

Plan of the Theatre

Cross section of the Theatre from an architect's drawing displayed in the basement of the Theatre's backstage area Photo M.L.

Above - Cross section of the Theatre from an architect's drawing
displayed in the basement of the Theatre's backstage area - Photo M.L.

 

The Basement

Deep in the bowels of the Theatre are ancient passageways, parts of which may contain elements of the earlier Theatres on the site. Photo M.L.

Above - Deep in the bowels of the Theatre are ancient passageways,
parts of which may contain elements of the earlier Theatres on the site - Photo M.L.

 

The Follow Spot Box

At the highest point of the Theatre at roof level and to the rear of the balcony is the Follow Spot Box, here you can see one of three spots used on 'The Producers' and beyond the glass; a balcony chandelier.

Above - At the highest point of the Theatre at roof level and to the rear of the balcony is the Follow Spot Box, here you can see one of three spots used on 'The Producers' and beyond the glass; a balcony chandelier.

 

A Cartoon

A Cartoon drawn by Jimmy Needle during the run of 'Hello Dolly' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The cartoon seems to be suggesting that the Theatre staff were at the time fed up with American productions taking over the Theatre - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow - Courtesy Phil Davis.

Above - A Cartoon drawn by Jimmy Needle during the run of 'Hello Dolly' at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The cartoon seems to be suggesting that the Theatre staff were at the time fed up with American productions taking over the Theatre - From the personal collection of Alec Marlow - Courtesy Phil Davis.

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is currently owned and run by Really Useful Theatres whose own website can be found here.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

 

London's West End Theatres

Adelphi Aldwych Ambassadors Apollo Apollo Victoria Arts Cambridge Criterion Dominion Drury Lane Duchess Duke Of Yorks Fortune Garrick Gielgud Harold Pinter Haymarket Her Majesty's London Coliseum London Palladium Lyceum Lyric New London Noel Coward / Albery Novello Old Vic Palace Peacock Phoenix Piccadilly Playhouse Prince Edward Prince of Wales Queen's Royal Opera House Savoy Shaftesbury St. Martin's Trafalgar Studios / Whitehall Vaudeville Victoria Palace Wyndham's