The New London Theatre, Drury Lane and Parker Street, London
- The Mogul Saloon - Middlesex Music Hall - Middlesex Theatre of Varieties
Above - The New London Theatre during production for 'School of
Rock The Musical' in September 2016 - Photo M.L.
The New London Theatre was built for Star Holdings Ltd as part of a complex of buildings including shops, showrooms, flats, and a restaurant and car park, to the designs of the then young and unknown Croatian architect Paul Tvrtkovic, and overseen by the architect Michael Percival.
The Theatre opened officially with 'The Unknown Soldier and his Wife,' starring Peter Ustinov, on the 10th of January 1973. However, the Theatre had actually had two earlier performances on the 23rd and 24th of November 1972 when the BBC recorded Marlene Deitrich in concert there.
The New London Theatre was built on a site that had already had a long theatrical history and was home to several earlier places of entertainment. These are now listed in chronologically order. More information on the New London Theatre itself can be found further down on this page.
The site on which the New London Theatre stands has been a place of entertainment since the 17th century, firstly as a tavern called the Mogul, named after the Mogul of Hindustan, and later when Henry Cook held his Glee Club meetings and sing songs there from 1828 in an adjoining hall. This hall was altered in 1847 and renamed the Mogul Saloon which opened on the 27th of December that year with a capacity of 500. Music Hall performances soon began there and in 1851 the Hall was renamed the Middlesex Music Hall.
Right - A programme for the Middlesex Music Hall - Courtesy Peter Charlton.
The next door Tavern's early barman, J. L. Graydon, took back control of the Hall in 1878 and made a great success of the place, which resulted in him rebuilding it again in 1891 at a cost of £12,000, a considerable sum in those days.
Although the Hall was still officially known as the Middlesex Music Hall it had always been affectionately known as 'The Old Mo,' after it's original guise as The Mogul saloon, probably because the Mogul Tavern next door was still in existence right up until the end.
Left - 'Noctes Ambrosianae' by Walter Sickert, which depicts the gallery of the Middlesex Music Hall. Painted by Walter Sickert in 1906.
(Information on the painting is courtesy Wendy Baron whose book on Sickert was published in 1973 by Yale University Press. The Middlesex Music Hall had formerly been called the Mogul Tavern and was situated in Drury Lane, on the site of the present New London Theatre.
In 1910 the former barman of the Mogul Tavern who had by now been running the Middlesex Music Hall very successfully since 1878 went into partnership with Oswald Stoll and together they set about a rebuild. The old Music Hall closed on the 11th of January and was then completely demolished. By October the following year the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, had built them a brand new Theatre called the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties. This new Theatre opened on the 30th of October 1911, a week before another of Matcham's new Theatres also had its opening; the Victoria Palace.
Right - An early variety programme for the Middlesex Theatre of Varieties - Courtesy Roy Cross. On the Bill were Walter Dowling, Albert Letine,The Lacori Family, Florence Smithers, Lydia & Amelys, Dale & O'Malley, James Stewart, John F. Traynor & Company, Olga, Elgar & Eli Hudson, and a Bioscope presentation of Topical Events.
On the 28th of October 1911 the ERA printed a review of the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties, (reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's ' Theatres of London') which said:- 'Built to the design of Frank Matcham the new house has been erected in red brick, Portland stone and polished granite, and occupies an advantageous position in Drury Lane, within earshot of the hurry and bustle of Holborn.
The new theatre besides being a valuable acquisition to the thoroughfare, is a striking object lesson in the advance of refinement in the public amusements of the people of this country... The New Middlesex is the property of The Middlesex Theatre of Varieties Ltd of which Mr Oswald Stoll is chairman and managing director, and Mr J. L. Graydon so long and honourably connected with the old Middlesex, a director taking an active interest in the business...
The new building has the largest frontage of any variety theatre in London, namely 155 ft to Shelton Street and 115 f t to Drury Lane, and covers an area of 12,700 superficial feet. Thus the original site of 10,000 ft, together with an important property in the vicinity, has been absorbed.
The main entrance is at the angle of Drury Lane and Shelton Street whence, through the main vestibule, staircases lead direct to the stalls and circle. The stalls patrons pass into a crush room, and thence by corridors direct to the stalls, which are approached on either side. The auditorium is of ample dimensions - 88 ft by 80 ft - is capable of seating 3000 people, and contains two tiers constructed on the steel cantilever principle without columns, so that a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage is obtained from every seat.
Left - The auditorium and stage of the Middlesex Theatre of Varieties from an early variety programme for the Theatre - Courtesy Roy Cross.
The ground floor is divided into orchestra stalls, stalls, and pit-stalls, all furnished with comfortably upholstered seats, in common with the family circle; while the balcony, as the gallery is named, is provided with beautifully upholstered seats, equaled in roomy comfort only in the dress circles of the best theatres of the country. The theatre is heavily carpeted in all parts. Every seat in the theatre including the balcony is numbered, and consequently, is reservable in advance. To facilitate further the work of this innovation, a large booking office has been established at 101 High Holborn.
The scheme of decoration in the auditorium is Arabesque, in light tones of cream and gold, with tints of pale green, and the hangings, seatings, and furnishing generally, in warm crimson. The entrance to the building, including the vestibules, the crush room for the stalls, etc., are all in Renaissance, but the general tone of the colour has been carried out throughout the house in its entirety.
Right - Mrs. J. L. Graydon, also known as Miss Lottie Cherry in her Music Hall performing days, helped her husband Mr. J. L. Graydon run the Middlesex Music Hall. She also helped manage Foresters Music Hall with her husband and then went on to manage the Alhambra in Brighton. - From the Encore April 19th 1895 - Courtesy Jean Green, Great Granddaughter of John William Cherry.
The Old Mogul public house has been entirely rebuilt, and is in keeping with the modern theatre of which it forms a part. An innovation, however, has been made by the introduction of refreshment rooms on the first floor, which is approached by a separate staircase direct from the street, without passing into the Mogul itself.'
Above - The Winter Garden Theatre, Drury Lane during the run of 'Folies Bergere De Paris' in 1958 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins
The Middlesex Theatre of Varieties continued with Music Hall and later French reviews and some touring reviews until 1919 when it was bought by George Grossmith and Edward Laurillard. They redecorated the auditorium in the 'Treillage Style,' removed the Pit, altered the position of the main entrance and renamed the Theatre The Winter Garden Theatre.
Remarkably the original Mogul Tavern, which had been incorporated into the building when the Theatre was originally rebuilt, now became the Stalls Bar and was renamed the Nell Gwynn Tavern. The Winter Garden Theatre opened on the 20th of May 1919 with the musical 'Kissing Time by Guy Bolton and P. G. Woodhouse. This was very successful and ran for 430 performances.
Right - A Programme for 'The Water Gipsies' at the Winter Garden Theatre on the 31st August 1955.
A multitude of successful plays and musicals were staged at the Winter Garden Theatre for the next forty years but after a Christmas performance of 'Alice in Wonderland' in 1959 the Theatre, then owned by the Rank Organisation, was sold to a property developer and the Theatre closed its doors for the last time and was stripped of all its internal fittings. The Theatre then stood derelict until 1965 when it was finally demolished.
Above Left - A Programme for 'Husbands Don't Count' at The Winter Garden Theatre on the 1st of October 1952 - And Right - A Programme for 'So this is Love' at The Winter Garden Theatre in 1929
Above - The New London Theatre during the run of 'War Horse' in 2010 - Photo M.L.
Work began on the building of the New London Theatre and adjoining shops, showrooms, flats, restaurant and car park in 1971. The Complex was constructed on the site of the former Winter Garden Theatre which had been demolished in 1965. An A.R.I.B.A press release at the time, ( reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's ' Theatres of London') enthused about the new Theatre and Complex of facilities saying:- 'The New London is a theatre of the future. It is a theatre that moves; stage, seats, lights even the walls can be made to change their positions.
Above - A 1970s / 80s Seating Plan for the New London Theatre
Every type of production can be presented in a totally different way and yet can be performed within hours of each other. No longer will producers be constricted by the limitations of either 'proscenium' or 'in-the-round' for at the New London the use of modern technology has made both possible.
Almost one third of the theatre's floor is built on a revolve 60 ft wide which accommodates the stage, the orchestra pit and the first eight rows of the 911 seats. The walls along more than half the theatre length are faced with moveable panels extending from floor to ceiling. These are made to track and pivot in such a way that the shape of the auditorium can be completely changed. In a normal proscenium setting those at the edge of the stage turn to form the wings and proscenium opening whilst the remainder open out into a trumpet shape merging with the walls of the main auditorium.
Right - The Parker Street elevation of The New London Theatre during the run of 'Blue Man Group' in October 2006 - Photo M.L.
The real magic becomes apparent when, at the throw of a switch, all of these elements-stage, seats, orchestra pit, walls-silently change their position to transform the theatre into an amphi-theatre. In just 4 minutes the revolve turns through 180 degrees bringing the stage to the centre of the auditorium and the 'front stalls' to where the backdrop had been. All of these 206 seats are then raised by electrically operated screw jacks to a steeper angle of raking. The wall panels slide and pivot into an unbroken half -circle at the back of the theatre.
The ceiling-composed of louvred panels like a horizontal venetian blind-is opened up to allow lights to project through, and scenery to be lowered, onto any part of the stage below.
Everything on the main revolve is movable; the orchestra pit across its centre is made up of three simple elevators any of which, when raised to floor level, reduces the size for when smaller groups of musicians are performing. Within the main revolve a smaller stage revolve is fitted as well as a set of traps reached from below.
The sound and lighting systems are the most advanced design with all controls centralised in a glass walled box high at the back of the auditorium. For many productions manual control will be unnecessary - a complete performance can be controlled automatically by a 'total memory' dimmer system. To ensure that sound definition achieves the highest possible standards the designers, at every stage, have consulted, with Dr Larsen Jorden, the Danish acoustics expert.
The New London is not a small theatre - it accommodates an audience of over 900 - but, by massing the seating radially around the focal point of the stage, the designers have achieved an atmosphere of intimacy that belies the theatre's size.
No seat, including those in the circle, is remote from the stage, and carefully defined sightlines will ensure that the audience will have a clear, uninterrupted view of the performance.
Dressing accommodation for the performers is arranged on four floors at one side of the theatre with a lift giving access to the stage. The stars' dressing rooms are at stage level along with a large, comfortable Green Room. From a basement ramp lifts take the largest and heaviest pieces of scenery direct to stage and understage levels.
From the entrance foyer an escalator reaches up to the theatre's main reception-an area of 2400 sq ft immediately beneath and behind the rake of the theatre's auditorium. Here there are circular bars and a comfortable lounge area.'
The above text in quotes was first published in a press release from the A.R.I.B.A in 1971.
The New London Theatre was built for Star Holdings Ltd as part of a complex of buildings including shops, showrooms, flats, and a restaurant and car park, to the designs of the then young and unknown Croatian architect Paul Tvrtkovic, and overseen by the architect Michael Percival. The Theatre opened officially with 'The Unknown Soldier and his Wife,' starring Peter Ustinov, on the 10th of January 1973. However, the Theatre had actually had two earlier performances on the 23rd and 24th of November 1972 when the BBC recorded Marlene Deitrich in concert there.
Right - The Drury Lane elevation of the New London Theatre during the run of 'Blue Man Group' in October 2006 - Photo M.L.
Drury Lane is of course also famous for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which actually fronts on to Catherine Street but is so large that the rear of the building reaches Drury Lane itself. The road used to extend further south, but the Aldwych development scheme in 1902 cut it off. This alteration of road layouts also brought into existence the Aldwych Theatre and the Strand Theatre, but it radically altered the former theatreland which had previously been situated around Drury Lane. Four theatres were demolished for the Aldwych Road scheme including the Opera Comique, the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand, the Olympic Theatre in the now lost Wych Street, and the Globe Theatre in the former Newcastle Street.
Right - The New London Theatre during the final performances of 'Cats' in May 2002 after the immense run of 8,949 performances.
Above - The New London Theatre in February 2008 during production for the musical version of 'Gone With The Wind' - Photo M.L.
Above - The New London Theatre during pre-production for the musical 'Imagine This' which opened on the 19th of November 2008 but closed just a few weeks later - Photo M.L.
Above - The New London Theatre during the run of 'War Horse' in 2010 - Photo M.L.
The New London Theatre is currently owned and run by the Really Useful Group whose own website for the Theatre can be found here.
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