The Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, London, SW1
Formerly - The Whitehall Theatre
Above - The Trafalgar Studios during the run of 'Bent'
in October 2006.
The Trafalgar Studios originally opened as the Whitehall Theatre on the 29th of September 1930 with a play called 'The Way To Treat A Woman' by Walter Hackett, which was a transfer from the Duke Of York's. The Theatre was built on a site which had previously been home to a public house called 'Ye Old Ship Tavern' which had been there since 1650. The Tavern was demolished and rebuilt on the opposite side of the road and the Whitehall Theatre arose in its place.
The Whitehall was one of many Theatres which opened in London's West End in 1930, and one of several opening in the same month. First there was the Prince Edward on April the 3rd, then the Cambridge on the 4th of September, then the Phoenix on the 24th of September, and the Whitehall on the 29th of September. Then came the rebuilt Adelphi Theatre on 3rd of December, and finally the Leicester Square Theatre which opened on December the 19th. Quite a flurry of Theatre building for one year in the 1930s.
Right - A Programme for 'Afterwards' by Walter Hackett, which opened at the Whitehall Theatre in 1933 and ran for 208 performances.
Far Right - A Programme for 'Worm's Eye View' by R. F. Delderfield, a phenomenally successful production which opened at the Whitehall Theatre on the 18th of December 1945 and ran for 500 performances and returned in 1947 to run for a further 1,745 performances.
The Whitehall Theatre was designed by Edward A. Stone with an Art Deco interior by Marc-Henri and Laverdet, who also designed the Piccadilly Theatre's interior. The auditorium was built on two levels, Stalls and Dress Circle with a capacity of 620. The stage was a compact 27' 7" Wide by 15' 6" Deep.
Theatre became famous in the 50s and 60s for being the home of Brian
Rix's 'Whitehall Farces'. This began with a play called 'Reluctant Heroes'
which opened in September of 1950, and ended in 1969 when the phenomenally
successful nude show 'Pyjama Tops' starring Fiona Richmond opened at
the Theatre on Monday September 22nd 1969, and ran for the next 5 years.
Left - A Programme for 'Pyjama Tops' at the Whitehall Theatre. Inside it states that the 1,000 performance was reached on Wednesday, February the 23rd, 1972 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
Right - A Programme for 'Simple Spyman' at the Whitehall
Theatre in the 1950s - Courtesy George Richmond. In the cast were Raymond
Cooney, Toby Perkins, Charles Cameron, Gerald Andersen, Leo Frankly,
Brian Rix, Joan Sanderson, Larry Noble, Merylin Roberts, Peter Allenby,
Peter Mercier, and Andrew Sachs, who later found fame in the BBC's 'Fawlty
Paul Raymond bought the lease of the Theatre in 1971 and by the end of the decade, and without permission, he had turned the Theatre into a kind of tourist museum called 'The Theatre Of War.' Raymond got into serious trouble with Westminster Council as a result.
A successful Public Inquiry followed, supported by the newly formed Save London's Theatres Campaign, and the Theatres Trust, which eventually went against Paul Raymond and has helped to preserve the status of Theatre buildings in London ever since.
Above - The Whitehall Theatre sporting the 'Theatre of War' signage in 1986 - Courtesy Jason Mullen
Above - A 1970s Seating Plan for the Whitehall Theatre
In the late 80s the Theatre was refurbished, and it reopened on March the 5th 1986 with J. B. Priestley's 'When We Are Married.'
Left - The derelict circle of the Whitehall Theatre after the Theatre of War period in 1986 - Courtesy Jason Mullen.
The Whitehall then went on to stage a series of successful plays and tribute shows.
In the late 90s it was used as a Television and Radio Studio for a few years before returning to live Theatre use again, but eventually the Theatre was to close again, and this time for major reconstruction.
The Last performance at the Whitehall Theatre was 'Rat Pack Confidential which opened on the 18th of September 2003 and closed on the 15th of November 2003.
Right - A Programme for 'Glorious Morning' at the Whitehall Theatre in 1938.
After 'Rat Pack Confidential closed in 2003 the Theatre had a major, but reversible, conversion to the newly renamed Trafalgar Studios. This involved splitting the Theatre into two Studio Spaces, one above the other, and creating a 380 seat auditoria in the original Dress Circle and extending this level down to the front of the stage; Studio One, and a new intimate 100 seat auditoria in the space which was formerly the Stalls area underneath the Dress Circle; Studio Two.
The new Trafalgar Studios' Studio One opened with a production of 'Othello' by the Royal Shakespeare Company on the 3rd of June 2004.
The Trafalgar Studios is currently run by the Ambassador Theatre Group and you may like to visit their own Website for the Theatre here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
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