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

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

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.The Saville Theatre was constructed by Gee, Walker and Slater of 32, James's Street, London, to the designs of the architects T. P. Bennett and 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.

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.

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

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

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.

 

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.

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, 'For the Love of Mike,' ran for 239 performances and was 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.' The play opened in June 1932 and ran for 234 performances.

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.Left - 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' (Shown Right) but was soon restored and operating again, and the production reopened afterwards to achieve an overall run of some 603 performances.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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

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

 

 

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 last Play to be performed at the Saville Theatre was 'Enemy' by Robert Maugham which opened in December 1969 and had a short run before the Theatre was bought by EMI and converted into a twin Cinema, ABC 1 which seated 616 and ABC 2 which seated 581. The conversion was carried out by William Ryder and Associates and the new Cinemas opened on the 22nd of December 1970.

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 Three's A Family' at the Saville Theatre.

Right - 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.