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The Peacock Theatre, Kingsway, London

Formerly - The London Opera House / National Theatre of England / Stoll Picture Theatre / Stoll Theatre / Royalty Theatre

Introduction - The London Opera House - The Stoll Picture Theatre / Stoll Theatre - The Royalty Theatre - The Peacock Theatre

Above - The Peacock Theatre in October 2006. - Photo M.L.

Above - The Peacock Theatre in October 2006.

 

 

See London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsThe Peacock Theatre on London's Kingsway originally opened as the Royalty Theatre in 1960 and was built on the site of the former London Opera House which opened on the 13th of November 1911.

Information on the London Opera House, later the Stoll Theatre, follows, and more information on the Royalty and Peacock Theatres can be found below.

 

The London Opera House

Later - The Stoll Picture Theatre / The National Theatre of England / The Stoll Theatre

Postcard of the London Opera House, Kingsway, from above.

Above - A Postcard showing the London Opera House, Kingsway, from above.

The London Opera House was designed by the well known Theatre Architect Bertie Crew for Oscar Hammerstein who envisaged it as a rival to the Covent Garden Opera House.

A Thumbnail image of the Stoll Theatre auditorium which can be seen in its original size at the photo sharing site Flickr here. The Theatre was enormous and consisted of an entire block on the recently constructed Kingsway, covering an area of over 24,000 square feet with a facade stretching 272 feet along the street and a height of 80 foot. The stage of the Theatre was 44'8" by 78' and it had an auditorium capable of accommodating some 2,660 people. The Theatre cost over £200,000 to build and was designed in the French Renaissance style with a Portland stone frontage. Along the roof of the Theatre were twelve statues by the sculptor Thomas Rudge and at either end were statues representing Melody and Harmony.

Right - A Thumbnail image of the auditorium of the London Opera House, later the Stoll Theatre, which can be seen in its original size at the photo sharing site Flickr here.

The lavish auditorium was in the French Renaissance style, built on four levels, Stalls and three Balconies, with 22 boxes, 18 on three rows flanking either side of the proscenium and 4 at stalls level. There were also private boxes around the rear stalls and the front of the first circle. Thirteen dressing rooms provide accomodation for up to 76 artistes.

The London Opera House opened on the 13th of November 1911 with a production of 'Quo Vadis' which was its first appearance in London and then continued with a season of operas through to March 1912. However Oscar Hammerstein hadn't taken into account that the Covent Garden Opera House had all the top names in opera performing in its productions and despite another season at his Theatre, which began in April, by July 1912 he had to admit defeat. Hammerstein closed his Theatre on the 13th of July and returned to America with his tail between his legs and loses amounting to £47,000.

The Theatre then remained closed until December 1912 when the French impresario, Ferand Akoun, reopened it with a season of Variety shows and Film showings.

Oscar Hammerstein then sold the Theatre to a new company, the London Opera House Ltd, who put on a number of Variety shows.

 

A glass jar which commemorated the show 'Come Over Here' at the London Opera House in April 1913 - Kindly donated by Angela Kirk.A glass jar which commemorated the show 'Come Over Here' at the London Opera House in April 1913 - Kindly donated by Angela Kirk.Following this they put on a new review called 'Come Over Here' which opened on April 19th 1913 and ran for some 217 performances.

Left and Right - A glass jar which commemorated the 200th performance of the review 'Come Over Here' at the London Opera House in September 1913 and was issued to every member of the audience - Kindly donated by Angela Kirk. On the rim of the jar top it has the maker's stamp of 'WJM & Co' and also the anchor stamp for Birmingham, the Lion stamp signifying pure silver and the stamped date letter 'O' for 1913. - Stamp Information courtesy Peter Long.

 

The Stoll Picture Theatre

Later - The Stoll Theatre

The Stoll Picture Theatre in 1924 - From a brochure for The Bulman Cinema Screen Company

Above - The Stoll Picture Theatre in 1924 - From a brochure for The Bulman Cinema Screen Company

After 'Come Over Here' a number of productions were tried at the London Opera House, none of them very successfully, and for a short period between 1914/15 the Theatre even became known as the National Theatre of England, but then it was bought by Oswald Stoll in 1916 and he converted it for Cinema use and reopened it as the Stoll Picture Theatre on the 31st of April 1917.

Stoll Picture Theatre,'These Three' in 1936 Stoll Picture Theatre, 'The Georgeous Hussy' in 1937 Stoll Picture Theatre, Cine Variety production including an Ice spectacular in 1938.

Above - Three programmes for the Stoll Picture Theatre,'These Three' in 1936, 'The Georgeous Hussy' in 1937, and a Cine Variety production including an Ice spectacular in 1938.

The London Opera House, Kingsway, later to be renamed the Stoll Theatre.This proved to be much more of a success for the Theatre which began by showing silent films and would later have its own Jardine tubular pneumatic orchestral organ installed in 1927, and later films were even accompanied by a full orchestra. Later still the Theatre became home to regular Cine Variety shows until it was closed in September 1940.

The building reopened on the 1st of September the following year, 1941, as a live Theatre and when it was taken over by Emile Littler in 1942 it was renamed the Stoll Theatre.

Right - The London Opera House, Kingsway, later to be renamed the Stoll Picture Theatre and then the Stoll Theatre.

The Stoll Theatre soon became home to lavish stage shows and ice spectaculars and was very successful until it was closed at the end of the run of 'Titus and Andronicus' with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh on the 4th of August 1957.

The Theatre was demolished the following year in 1958 to make way for a very sorry looking office block, quite why this was allowed is anybody's guess, but it certainly wouldn't have happened today as one can imagine this vast Theatre being the perfect place to stage the large scale musicals favoured by many producers today.

As a consolation, after the magnificent Stoll Theatre was demolished, a new smaller Theatre, The Royalty Theatre, was constructed in the basement of the office block which replaced it. More on this below.

 

The Stoll Theatre in 1958, shortly before its demolition - Courtesy Gerry Atkins.

Above - The Stoll Theatre in 1958, shortly before its demolition - Courtesy Gerry Atkins.

 

A selection of programmes for the Stoll Theatre, Kingsway from 1942 to 1954

Programme for Rose Marie at the Stoll Theatre 1942 Ticket Stub for Rose Marie at the Stoll Theatre August 7th 1942 Ticket Stub for Rose Marie at the Stoll Theatre August 7th 1942

Above - A Programme and Ticket Stubs for 'Rose Marie' at the Stoll Theatre for August the 7th 1942.

Programme for Kismet at the Stoll Theatre Programme for Porgy and Bess at the Stoll TheatreProgramme for Stars on Ice at the Stoll Theatre 1947

Above - Programme for 'Kismet', 'Porgy and Bess', 'Stars on Ice' at the Stoll Theatre in 1947

 

A programme for 'Songs and Dances of Spain' at the Stoll Theatre in 1952. Programme for Joan of Arc at the Stake at the Stoll Theatre 1954 A Programme for the Vienna Operetta in 1954 - Courtesy Maurice Norman.

Above - A programme for 'Songs and Dances of Spain' at the Stoll Theatre in 1952. A Programme for 'Joan of Arc at the Stake' at the Stoll Theatre in 1954. And a Programme for the Vienna Operetta season in 1954 - Courtesy Maurice Norman.

 

The Royalty Theatre

Later - The Peacock Theatre

The Peacock Theatre in 2005, built as the Royalty Theatre in 1960 on the site of the former London Opera House / Stoll Theatre - Photo M.L. 05.

Above - The Peacock Theatre in 2005, originally built as the Royalty Theatre in 1960 on the site of the former London Opera House / Stoll Theatre - Photo M.L. 05.

As a consolation, after the magnificent Stoll Theatre was demolished, a new smaller Theatre, The Royalty Theatre, was constructed in the basement of the office block which replaced it. This new Theatre opened in 1960 with a capacity of 1,000. This Theatre should not be confused with the Royalty Theatre in Dean Street.

A Seating Plan for the Royalty Theatre, Kingsway

Above - A Seating Plan for the Royalty Theatre, Kingsway

Never a very successful Theatre, the Royalty eventually found a use as a TV studio for ITV's 'This is Your Life,' but was later bought by the London School of Economics and renamed the Peacock Theatre. Here Sadler's Wells' also found a home whilst its own Theatre was being rebuilt.

The Peacock is now in use as a lecture Theatre by day and puts on various productions at night including occasional Sadler's Wells' productions. The Theatre is also home to regular Christmas pantomimes such as 'The Snowman' a perennial favourite at this Theatre. You may like to visit Sadler's Wells' own website for the Peacock Theatre here.

 

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