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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The Saville Theatre, 135 - 149 Shaftesbury Avenue, Holborn, London

Later - ABC 1 and 2 / Cannon / MGM / Odeon Covent Garden

Redevelopment Plans for the former Saville Theatre in 2017

The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue, in April 2014, formerly the Saville Theatre - Photo M. L.

Above - The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue, in April 2014, formerly the Saville Theatre - Photo M. L.

A programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931 and ran for 239 performances.See this Theatre on Google StreetviewThe Saville Theatre was constructed by Gee, Walker and Slater of 32, James's Street, London, to the designs of the architects T. P. Bennett & Son of 41, Bedford Row, London, who were also responsible for the whole colour scheme, lighting, and furnishings of the Theatre, and worked in consultation with Bertie Crewe.

Right - A programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931 and ran for 239 performances.

The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue, in April 2014, formerly the Saville Theatre - Photo M. L.The Theatre opened on the 8th of October 1931 with a production of 'For The Love of Mike' which was a play with music by H. F. Maltby, adapted by Clifford Grey. The cast included Arthur Riscoe, Viola Tree, Bobby Howes, Olga Lindo, and Alfred Drayton.

Left - The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue, in April 2014, formerly the Saville Theatre.

The Theatre was built on three levels, Stalls, Dress Circle, and Upper Circle, with two boxes and had a capacity on opening of 1,426. The Stage was 31' 6" Wide by 30' 6" Deep.

The front of the Theatre was imposing and had a sculptured frieze by Gilbert Bayes running along it for nearly 40 meters, representing ‘Drama Through The Ages.’ This is still to be seen on the building today and according to the Theatres Trust 'has been described recently (1998) as ‘perhaps the most significant sculpture of the 1930s on a prominent building.’

The Foyer of the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931.

Above - The Foyer of the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931.

The Stalls Bar in the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931.

Above - The Stalls Bar in the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931.

A Seating Plan for the Saville Theatre from the pre-computerised days of manual ticketing - Courtesy Martin Clark and Doreen Gould.

Above - A Seating Plan for the Saville Theatre from the pre-computerised days of manual ticketing - Courtesy Martin Clark and Doreen Gould.

On the day of the Saville Theatre's opening the Stage Newspaper printed a short review of the building in their October 8th 1931 Edition saying:- 'The stalls bar and saloon lounge adjoining, will please the public, special care has been exercised in their equipment and decoration. The bar, which has mural paintings by Mr A. R. Thompson, is 18 ft by 54 ft in front of the counters, while the lounge, which is also decorated by the same artist, is 42 ft by 40 ft. There is a sort of shopping arcade in and about the lounge, as in the up-to-date hotels, and it is quite big enough for tea dances or concerts. So comfortable, indeed, are the lounge and the bar at the Saville, that it is to be feared that something more than a warning bell will be necessary to clear them.' - The Stage, 8th of October 1931.

The Saloon at the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931.

Above - The Saloon at the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931. When the Theatre opened Tea was served in the Salon of the Saville at each matinee.

Another view of the Saloon at the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931.

Above - Another view of the Saloon at the Saville Theatre on its opening in 1931 - From a programme for the opening production of 'For the Love of Mike' at the Saville Theatre in October 1931. When the Theatre opened Tea was served in the Salon of the Saville at each matinee.

A programme for the second production at the Saville Theatre in June 1932, 'Tell Her the Truth.' The opening play at the Saville Theatre on the 8th of October 1931 was 'For the Love of Mike' which ran for 239 performances, and this was then followed by a production of 'Tell Her the Truth' which was, like the first production at the Saville, a play with tunes, this time by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee, adapted from Frederick Isham's 'Nothing But the Truth.' 'Tell Her the Truth' opened in June 1932 and ran for 234 performances.

Right - A programme for the second production at the Saville Theatre in June 1932, 'Tell Her the Truth.' The cast for this production included many from the first production at the Saville including Bobby Howes, Alfred Drayton, Henrietta Watson, and Peter Haddon.

The Theatre was damaged in the Blitz of 1941 during the run of 'Up and Doing' but was soon restored and operating again, and the production reopened afterward to achieve the overall run of 603 performances.The Saville Theatre was damaged in the Blitz of 1941 during the run of 'Up and Doing' which had opened at the Theatre in 1940 (Programme shown left). However, the Theatre was soon repaired, restored, and operating again with the same production of 'Up and Doing' which reopened the Theatre and continued its success, achieving an overall run of some 603 performances.

Left - A Programme for 'Up and Doing' at the Saville Theatre in 1941, the same production of 'Up and Doing' reopened the Theatre after it was repaired and restored, to achieve an overall run of some 603 performances.

A Programme for Ivor Novello's 'Gay's the Word' at the Saville Theatre in February 1951 - Courtesy Michael Jaffe.A Programme for Ivor Novello's 'Gay's the Word' at the Saville Theatre in February 1951 - Courtesy Michael Jaffé.Bernard Delfont took over the Saville Theatre in 1946, putting on 'Here Comes the Boys' in April that year, which starred Jack Hulbert and Bobby Howes, this was reasonably successful, but after this the Theatre had less success for several years until Delfont put on Ivor Novello's 'Gay's the Word' in February 1951 starring Cicely Courtneidge (Programme shown right). This was a big hit and ran for nearly two years.

Right - A Programme for Ivor Novello's 'Gay's the Word' at the Saville Theatre in February 1951 - Courtesy Michael Jaffé.

In 1955 the interior of the Theatre was completely redecorated to the designs of Laurence Irving, and at the same time John Collins created a new mural for the Stalls Bar.

A Tea Set used at the Saville Theatre in its early years - Photograph kindly sent in by Kim Melhuish.

Above - A Tea Set used at the Saville Theatre in its early years - Photograph kindly sent in by Kim Melhuish. When the Theatre opened Tea was served in the Salon of the Saville at each matinee.

The Dancing Years Flyer The Dancing Years Programme Cover Marcel Marceau Flyer Marcel Marceau Programme Cover

Lady Be Good Programme Pickwick Programme A Midsummer Night's Dream Flyer A Midsummer Night's Dream Programme

 

Above - Programmes and Flyers for some productions at the Saville Theatre - Courtesy Martin Clark.

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Above - A Selection of Saville Theatre Programme Covers, some from the Arthur Lloyd Archive, and others Courtesy Martin Clark. Swipe Left or Right, or Click the Arrows and Thumbnails, to see the next programme.

Programme for 'Over She Goes' with Stanley Lupino which opened at the Saville Theatre in 1936 and ran for 248 performances.The Saville Theatre was quite a successful Theatre during its short life and it's surprising that more wasn't done to stop its eventual demise.

Right - A Programme for 'Over She Goes' with Stanley Lupino which opened at the Saville Theatre in 1936 and ran for 248 performances.

Programme for 'Here Come The Boys' in 1946 when Bernard Delfont had taken over the management of the Saville Theatre.In its later years the Saville was often used as a concert venue when in the 1960s Brian Epstein took over the Theatre and it played host to the likes of The Bee Gees, The Who, Jimmi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Fats Domino, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Chuck Berry, Elton John, and the Beatles, whose 'Hello Goodbye' promo, which is now available on the Beatles Anthology, was filmed at the Saville Theatre on Friday the 10th of November 1967, see video here.

Left - A Programme for 'Here Come The Boys' in 1946 when Bernard Delfont had taken over the management of the Saville Theatre.

A Flyer for Cameron Mackintosh's 'Anything Goes' at the Saville Theatre in 1969 - Courtesy Martin Clark.In 1969 a new Producer, Cameron Mackintosh, in association with David Dein and Guilford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, put on what was to become one of the last productions at the Saville Theatre in its final year of being a live Theatre. The show was a revival of 'Anything Goes' (See Flyer Right and Full Programme Below). However, the production, which starred Marian Montgomery, James Kenney, Michael Segal, Michael Malnick, Linda Gray, Stanley Beard, Valerie Verdon, Janet Mahoney, Bernard Sharpe, Peter Honri, Michael Rowlatt, John Stoddart, David Wheldon Williams, and Malcom Clare, was to be a bit of a disaster for Cameron Mackintosh's first foray into producing as the show closed after only two weeks.

Right - A Flyer for Cameron Mackintosh's 'Anything Goes' at the Saville Theatre in 1969 - Courtesy Martin Clark.

However, as history has proven, Sir Cameron Mackintosh would go onto become one of the world's greatest producers, putting on a string of incredibly successful productions over the ensuing years, and becoming not just a Producer but a Theatre Owner too, and a remarkably caring guardian of the West End Theatres he owns, lavishing vast sums of money and care on restoring and renovating them for future generations. It's a shame he didn't own the Saville Theatre back then as it may not have been subjected to the fate it would soon succumb to.

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Above - A Programme for Cameron Mackintosh's 'Anything Goes' at the Saville Theatre in 1969 - Courtesy Martin Clark. Swipe Left or Right, or Click the Arrows and Thumbnails, to see the whole programme.

The last Play to be performed at the Saville Theatre was 'Enemy' by Robert Maugham. The three hander cast included Dennis Waterman, Tony Selby and Neil Stacy, and the play was directed by Ronald Eyre. The Play, which opened in December 1969, only had a short run as the Theatre had been bought by EMI who planned to convert the Theatre into a twin screen Cinema. You can see the full Programme and Flyer for the final production of 'Enemy' at the Saville Theatre in 1969 below.

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Above - A Programme and Flyer for 'Enemy', the last production at the Saville Theatre before being converted into a Cinema in 1970 - Courtesy Martin Clark. Swipe Left or Right, or Click the Arrows and Thumbnails, to see the whole programme.

The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue, in April 2014, formerly the Saville Theatre - Photo M. L.

Above - The Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue, in April 2014, formerly the Saville Theatre - Photo M. L.

Programme for Three's A Family' at the Saville Theatre.The conversion of the Saville Theatre into a Twin Screen Cinema was carried out by William Ryder and Associates, and the new Cinemas, ABC1 and ABC2, which could seat 616 and 581 respectively, opened on the 22nd of December 1970.

Right - A Programme for Three's A Family' at the Saville Theatre.

Programme for 'An Evening With Maurice Chevalier' which was on at the Saville Theatre for a limited season in 1962.The conversion meant that the stage was converted too, for offices, and nowadays internally the original architecture and decoration are nowhere to be seen.

Left - A Programme for 'An Evening With Maurice Chevalier' which was on at the Saville Theatre for a limited season in 1962.

The new Cinemas however, were not that successful and when the building was taken over in 2001 by Odeon, along with ABC, the Company, the Theatre was renovated and split again, this time into four screens, and reopened as the Odeon Covent Garden, despite the fact that it's not really in Covent Garden at all.

You may like to visit the Odeon, Covent Garden's own website here.

Redevelopment Plans for the former Saville Theatre in 2017

The original auditorium and stage of the Saville Theatre when it first opened in 1931.In December 2017 a consultation on plans to redevelop the former Saville Theatre into an Hotel and small Cinema complex was held at the Thai Square Restaurant in Covent Garden, opposite the former Theatre, by Haim Danous, founder of the Thai Square Restaurant Group, and owner of the Theatre today. Danous's latest plans for the building, which have been scaled back several times over the preceding months, are to convert the Theatre by adding a two storey roof extension with a roof top bar and roof plant above the existing parapet of the building, to create a 94 room Hotel with ancillary restaurant, bar and spa, and to provide four small Cinema Screens in a new basement level seating 96, 82, 47, and 47 respectively.

Right - The original auditorium and stage of the Saville Theatre when it first opened in 1931.

If this pre-application gets to the actual planning application stage then a number of bodies who work to preserve such Grade II Listed Buildings, especially former Theatre buildings, will have much to think about I'm sure. Personally I would much rather see the building returned to its former use as a West End Theatre as, although internally it has been altered beyond recognition, with the will and finance it could be restored to Theatrical use again as the building has not lost any of its dimensions or footprint and the stage house and original auditorium could still be rebuilt and reinstated. The change of use to an Hotel would put the final nail in the coffin for any future theatrical use for the building, and the proposed very small basement cinemas would likely be unsuccessful and soon converted to other uses for the Hotel.

T. P. Bennett & Son, architects, and Bertie Crewe, consulting architect, 1930s stalls level plan for the Saville Theatre.

Above - T. P. Bennett & Son, architects, and Bertie Crewe, consulting architect, 1930s stalls level plan for the Saville Theatre.

It's worth noting that Haim Danous's first plans for the building in May 2017 included a 9 storey roof extension with a 128 room Hotel and provision for a flexible theatre space. Although the theatre space is to be applauded the 9 storey roof extension would have completely destroyed the look of the former Theatre.

The building is currently in use as an Odeon Cinema complex, you may like to visit the Odeon, Covent Garden's own website here.

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