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The Theatre Royal Haymarket, Haymarket, London, SW1

Formerly - The Little Theatre in the Haymarket / Theatre Royal in the Haymarket / Haymarket Theatre

Introduction - First Theatre - Second and Present Theatre

The Theatre Royal Haymarket during the run of 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers' in October 2006 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Theatre Royal Haymarket during the run of 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers' in October 2006.

 

 

See a Seating Plan for this Theatre with non commercial and independent opinions on the best seats to book - From Seatplan.co.ukSee London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsThe Theatre Royal that stands on the Haymarket, in London today opened as the 'Theatre Royal in the Haymarket' on the 4th of July 1821 with a production of Sheridan's 'The Rivals.' The exterior is still that of the 1821 John Nash design but the interior is that of C. Stanley Peach and S. D. Adshead of 1904.

There was however, a previous Theatre on this site before the present one which first opened as the 'Little Theatre in the Haymarket' on the 29th of December 1720 with 'La Fille a la Mode, ou le Badaud de Paris'. This first Theatre was renamed the Theatre Royal in the Haymarket in 1766. A chronological history of the Theatres on this site, and their various reconstructions, follows.

 

The First Theatre - 1720

Souvenir Programme for J. M. Barrie's 'The Little Minister' which opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1897.The First Theatre on the site was built by a carpenter called John Potter on the site of an old Inn called the King's Head but the Theatre was not allowed to open because of the 'Patent Theatres' rule. It was used by amateurs and 'resting' Patent Theatre actors for a while until Potter managed to gain the patronage of the Duke of Montague, and finally open the Theatre properly in December 1720. He opened it with a French company which was sponsored by his new Patron the Duke of Montague. Unfortunately this was not a success and closed in May of the following year, but undeterred Potter let the Theatre to anyone who thought they could fill it.

Right - A Souvenir Programme for J. M. Barrie's 'The Little Minister' which opened at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in 1897.

The Theatre had a few successes over the following years, namely 'The Supernatural' and 'Tom Thumb' but it was often closed too. When Henry Fielding took over the management of the Theatre with his 'Great Mogul's Company of Comedians' he put on a series of ever cruder pieces which eventually led to the censorship laws being introduced in 1737.

 

The Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1897 - From a Programme for J. M. Barrie's 'The Little Minister' which opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket that year. Notice the original Theatre, converted to shops, is still to be seen to the left of the Second.

Above - The Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1897 - From a Programme for J. M. Barrie's 'The Little Minister' which opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket that year. Notice that the original Theatre, converted to shops, is still to be seen to the left of the Second and Present Theatre in this photograph.

 

Programme for 'Frocks and Frills'  at the Theatre Royal Haymarket during Cyril Maude and Frederick Harrison's period as managers between 1896 and 1905.Programme for 'Joseph Entangled' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket during Cyril Maude and Frederick Harrison's period as managers between 1896 and 1905.All this time the Theatre had been running without a Patent but in July 1766, whilst Samual Foote, an actor himself, was running the Theatre, he was granted a Patent by the Duke of York, allowing him to open it in the summer whilst the other Patent Theatres were closed.

Left and Right - Programmes for 'Frocks and Frills' and 'Joseph Entangled' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket during Cyril Maude and Frederick Harrison's period as managers between 1896 and 1905.

This Patent came about after Foote had injured his leg after being persuaded to ride an unrideable horse on stage by guests of Lord Mexborough. His leg had to be amputated afterwards and the Patent was granted as a way of appeasing him on the 12th of July 1766.

 

Programme for 'The Blue Bird' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1910.Programme for 'The Dover Road' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1922.In 1777 George Coleman took over the Theatre, still with Foote's Patent, and enhanced the building by adding a third tier of boxes and re-roofing the Theatre.

Coleman's son took over in 1794 and between then and 1803 many actors who later became famous trod the boards at the Theatre Royal including Charles Kemble, John Liston, and John Bannister.

Left - A Programme for 'The Blue Bird' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1910.

Right - A Programme for 'The Dover Road' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1922.

 

The Second and Present Theatre Royal, Haymarket - 1821

Postcard of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, dated 1906. Notice the original Theatre, converted to shops, is still to be seen to the left of the Second.

Above - A Postcard of the Theatre Royal Haymarket, dated 1906. Notice the original Theatre, which was converted into shops, is still to be seen to the left of the Second Theatre in this image.

Theatre Royal Haymarket Theatre Seating Plan - Pre 1907The Second, and present, Theatre, which was built slightly to the south of the first Theatre, opened on the 4th of July 1821 with a production of Sheridan's 'The Rivals.' The Theatre was designed by John Nash and constructed at a cost of £20,000. The exterior of this Theatre remains today but the interior was not generally liked and has been altered many times.

The earlier Theatre remained beside the new one for a while until it was converted into shops (See image above), then it was converted into the Pall Mall Restaurant, and then finally demolished completely between the wars.

Right - A Pre 1907 Seating Plan for the second Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

Programme for 'Cousin Kate' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the 1920s.Left - A Programme for 'Cousin Kate' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the 1920s.

Programme for J. M. Barrie's 'Mary Rose' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket which opened in 1920 and ran for 399 performances.Right - A Programme for J. M. Barrie's 'Mary Rose' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket which opened in 1920 and ran for 399 performances.

The new Theatre Royal in the Haymarket was a success, one production 'Cherry Ripe' ran for 114 performances, which was a long run for the period, another caused a sensation when a woman was employed to play the part of Falstaff in 'the Merry Wives Of Windsor' Julia Glover had previously also played Hamlet in 1821 at the Lyceum Theatre. Phelps first appeared there in 1837, and Macready in 1840, and by 1843 the Theatre was so successful that it was apparently acknowledged as 'being the equal of Drury Lane.'

 

Postcard of the Haymarket, London looking up towards Piccadilly and showing Her Majesty's Theatre on the left and the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on the right.

Above - A Postcard of the Haymarket, London looking up towards Piccadilly and showing Her Majesty's Theatre on the left and the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on the right.

 

Programme for 'The Great Adventure' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1924The interior of the present Theatre has been converted many times; 1843 saw the introduction of Gas Lighting rather than by candles, and the forstage was removed and the proscenium altered; 1863 saw the proscenium altered furthur; 1848 saw seat backs being added to the circle; 1853 saw alterations FOH and Backstage, and in 1855 the Theatre changed its name to the simpler Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Programme for 'Quality Street' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1921.Left - A Programme for 'The Great Adventure' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1924.

Right - A Programme for 'Quality Street' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1921.

A fifteen year old Ellen Terry performed there in 1863 in a production celebrating the Eastern tour of the Prince of Wales, and in 1873 matinees were introduced, an afternoon performance beginning at 2pm which had first begun at the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand and has been the bane of Actors and crew alike ever since, although audiences naturally approve.

Programme for 'Comedienne' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1938.In 1879 the Bancrofts , who had previously been resident at the Prince Of Wales Theatre, took over the Theatre Royal Haymarket and began some serious rebuilding. C. J. Phipps was the architect responsible for the alterations which included completely remodeling the auditorium, removing the Pit and replacing it with Stalls, adding a new Circle, and completely enclosing the stage with a new four sided proscenium, making this the first 'Picture Framed' stage anywhere. The alterations commenced on the 1st of October 1879 and the Theatre reopened on the 31st of January 1880.

Left - Programme for Ivor Novello's 'Comedienne' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1938.

Beerbohm Tree took over the Haymarket in 1887 and had the Theatre redecorated and altered again, once more by the well known Theatre Architect C. J. Phipps. Phipps reinstated the Pit which he had removed in 1879, extended the Balcony and Gallery, and had electric light installed in the auditorium. The Theatre reopened on the 15th of September 1887 with Beerbohm Tree's production of 'The Red Lamp' and 'The Ballad Monger' in which he also acted.

Beerbohm Tree ran the Theatre until he moved across the street to his newly built Her Majesty's Theatre in 1896, and opened that Theatre in April 1897. Her Majesty's was built by Tree from the profits of 'Trilby' which opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1895 and ran for 260 performances.

As a side note the first productions of Oscar Wilde's 'A Woman of no Importance' and 'An Ideal Husband' were first produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1893.

 

The Theatre Royal, Haymarket during the run of 'The Chalk Garden' in 1958 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

Above - The Theatre Royal, Haymarket during the run of 'The Chalk Garden' in 1958 - Courtesy Gerry Atkins

 

Programme for Noel Coward's 'Design For Living' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1939.The Theatre Royal Haymarket closed in 1904 for five months whilst major alterations by C. Stanley Peach were performed. This involved a complete reconstruction of the interior front of house of the stage right down to its foundations using steel, brick, and concrete, leaving only the stage, backstage areas, and the exterior untouched. Backstage areas were renovated however in 1909 when a proper curtain, or tabs as they are now known, was also installed rather than the previous roller act-drop.

Programme for 'The Chalk Garden' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1956.In 1939 furthur alterations were made FOH by the architect John Murray including the adding of a large Lounge Bar under the Stalls and enlargement of the Stalls Foyer but because of the war this all took much longer than expected and was not finally finished until March of 1941.

Right - Programme for Noel Coward's 'Design For Living' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1939.

Left - Programme for 'The Chalk Garden' at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1956.

The Theatre was extensively refurbished in 1994 at a cost of £1.3m when vast amounts of Gold Leaf were replaced, the 1821 stage and roof trusses were reinforced, the auditorium ceiling by Joseph Harker was cleaned and restored, new carpet, upholstery, and hand blocked wallpapers were replaced in the auditorium, the marble was polished and air conditioning installed. The capacity today is 903 on three levels.

 

A mid 1920s Seating Plan for the Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Above - A mid 1920s Seating Plan for the Theatre Royal, Haymarket

 

The Theatre Royal Haymarket during the run of 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers' in October 2006 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Theatre Royal Haymarket during the run of 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers'
in October 2006 - Photo M.L.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket has gone from strength to strength over the years and has had numerous successes, all too many to mention here. In 2013 the Theatre is owned by Louis I Michaels Ltd and the Theatre's own website can be found 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