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St. Martin's Theatre, West Street, London WC2

Proposed Name - The Irving Theatre

The St. Martin's Theatre during the 54th year of 'The Moustrap" in 2006. - Photo M.L.

Above - The St. Martin's Theatre during the 54th year of 'The Moustrap" in 2006.

See London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsSee this Theatre on Google StreetviewThe St. Martin's Theatre opened on the 23rd of November 1916 with a production of 'Houp La!' by Fred Thompson, with Gertie Millar and George Graves, and under the direction of Charles B. Cochran who was the Lessee of the building on its opening.

A Programme for 'Plan For A Hostess' by Thomas Browne at the St. Martin's Theatre in 1938 - Kindly donated by Clive Crayfourd.The proposed name for the Theatre, when it was first discussed in 1912, was to be the Irving Theatre, after Henry Irving, but the name was not used in the end and the Theatre actually opened as the St. Martin's Theatre. The Irving Theatre name was eventually used for a small review Theatre nearby in Leicester Square which opened in 1951 as an art gallery by day and a Theatre at night, closing in 1964.

Left - A Programme for 'Plan For A Hostess' by Thomas Browne at the St. Martin's Theatre in 1938 - Kindly donated by Clive Crayfourd. The cast included Yvonne Arnaud, Ronald Squire, Jacqueline Squire, Jack Brown, Adrianne Allen, William Douglas Home, and Patricia McGrath. The show ran for 161 performances.

Programme for 'Penny Plain' with Joyce Grenfell, Elisabeth Welch, and Max Adrian at the St. Martin's Theatre in 1951. The Architectural Review wrote on the St. Martin's Theatre's opening saying:- 'This building shows a change that has slowly been taking place during recent years. Its interior, instead of revelling in a lavish display of modelled plaster work, tricked out with gold leaf and paint, has an intimate, almost domestic character.

A Programme for 'The Wrong Side Of The Park' by John Mortimer at the St. Martin's Theatre in 1960 - Courtesy Roy Cross.In general style it tends to be what is known as English Georgian and gives one the impression of being a private theatre provided by some patron of the dramatic arts for the entertainment of his guests.

Right - A Programme for 'Penny Plain' with Joyce Grenfell, Elisabeth Welch, and Max Adrian at the St. Martin's Theatre in 1951 - Courtesy Jean Lloyd - Part of a collection of programmes from my parents' Theatre visits in their first years of marriage.

Left - A Programme for 'The Wrong Side Of The Park' by John Mortimer at the St. Martin's Theatre in 1960 - Courtesy Roy Cross.

The facade comprises a range of columns standing on a plain base and entablature and parapet. On this cornice, at the centre, is a large bronzed cartouche with flags grouped around, and on either side arevases. The proscenium and flanking walls of the auditorium are panelled their full height in Italian walnut (see note below) with a range of columns and pilasters on either side, with gilded capitals and bases, carrying a bold entablature which is continued across the proscenium.'

The above text in quotes is from 'The Architectural Review' of 1916. Note that the article describes the woodwork as Italian Walnut but an advertisement for Elliot & Sons Reading Ltd who supplied the woodwork for the Theatre says that is was African Walnut so this is the most likely (see images below).

The Auditorium and Stage of St. Martin's Theatre - From an advertisement for Interior Woodwork by Elliot & Sons Reading Ltd in the Academy Architecture and Architectural Review of 1921.

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of St. Martin's Theatre - From an advertisement for Interior Woodwork by Elliot & Sons Reading Ltd in the Academy Architecture and Architectural Review of 1921. The caption for the image in the original advertisement ( shown below) reads: 'St. Martin's Theatre, London, W.C.: Columns, Balustrading, Panelling and Proscenium, etc., executed by us in African Walnut. Plasterwork by Messrs. F. De Jong & Co., Ltd. W.G.R.Sprague Esq., Architect.

An advertisement for the Interior Woodwork of the St. Martin's Theatre by Elliot & Sons Reading Ltd in the Academy Architecture and Architectural Review of 1921. The original plan was to build two Theatres side by side at the same time, The Ambassadors and St. Martin's, but the war caused the building of the second Theatre, St. Martin's, to be delayed until 1916. Both Theatres were designed by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague.

Right - An advertisement for the Interior Woodwork of the St. Martin's Theatre by Elliot & Sons Reading Ltd in the Academy Architecture and Architectural Review of 1921. The caption for the image reads: 'St. Martin's Theatre, London, W.C.: Columns, Balustrading, Panelling and Proscenium, etc., executed by us in African Walnut. Plasterwork by Messrs. F. De Jong & Co., Ltd. W.G.R.Sprague Esq., Architect.

Early Programme for 'The Mousetrap' at the Ambassadors Theatre with Richard Attenborough still in the cast, although his wife, Sheila Sim, was no longer in the play. - Click to see the Entire Programme.The world's longest running play 'The Mousetrap' by Agatha Christie, started its run at the Ambassadors Theatre next door to St. Martin's on the 25 November 1952, with Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim in the lead roles, before moving to St. Martins Theatre in 1974 where it is still going strong today. In November 2012 the production celebrated its 60th year in the West End.

Left - An early Programme for 'The Mousetrap' at the Ambassadors Theatre with Richard Attenborough still in the cast, although his wife, Sheila Sim, was no longer in the play. - Click to see the Entire Programme.

A Gala performance for the play's 25,000th performance was staged at the Theatre in aid of 'Mousetrap Theatre Projects' and consisted of a performance in costume by celebrity guests who acted the play but read from the script. The gala cast included Hugh Bonneville, Miranda Hart, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Harry Lloyd, Iain Glen, Tamsin Greig, and Nicholas Farrell, who had less than 24 hours to learn the play and memorise the stage directions. To celebrate its 60 year run the play also began its first ever tour in September 2012 for a projected 60 week run.

A Seating Plan for the St. Martin's Theatre - From 'Who's Who in the Theatre' published in 1930 - Courtesy Martin Clark. Click to see more Seating Plans from this publication.

Above - A Seating Plan for the St. Martin's Theatre - From 'Who's Who in the Theatre' published in 1930 - Courtesy Martin Clark. Click to see more Seating Plans from this publication.

A Seating Plan for the St. Martin's Theatre, London - Courtesy Martin Clark and Doreen Gould.

Above - A Seating Plan for the St. Martin's Theatre, London, which at the time had a unique way of numbering - in strict numerical order (it's no longer like that). The plan is from the pre-computerised days of manual ticketing - Courtesy Martin Clark and Doreen Gould.

The St. Martin's Theatre has recently been refurbished inside and out. You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.

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