The Gielgud Theatre
The Hicks theatre opened on 27th December 1906, named after actor, manager and playwright Seymour Hicks, who it was built for, and it was designed by W G R Sprague in the style of Louis XVI, and the auditorium had 970 seats. The theatre was constructed as one of a pair with the Queen’s Theatre, opening in 1907 on the adjacent street corner.
The theatre opened with a musical called The Beauty of Bath, by Hicks and Cosmo Hamilton. Followed in 1907, was My Darling, also by Hicks, with the Straus operetta after that, followed by A Waltz Dream in 1908. The run of the theatre’s next major productions included, The Dashing Little Duke (1909), Hicks’ wife Ellaline Terriss, played the title role (a woman playing a man), and when she was unable to perform several performances due to illness, Hicks performed the role.
1909 saw the American impresario Charles Frohman take over as manager of the theatre and renamed it The Globe Theatre, reopening with His Borrowed Plumes written by Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. A different Globe Theatre, situated on Newcastle Street, was demolished in 1902 to make way for the construction of the Aldwych, and therefore the name became available. Notable productions followed which included Call It A Day by Dodie Smith, opening in 1935 and running for 509 performances, and was considered very successful for this time-period.
Terence Frisby’s There’s a Girl in My Soup, opening in 1966, and running for 1,064 performances, a record that stayed in place until Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Olivier Award-winning comedy Daisy Pulls It Off by Densie Deegan which opened in April 1983 to run for 1,180 performances, which is to this day the theatre’s longest running show. 1987 saw Peter Shaffer’s play Lettice and Lovage, which was a big hit with Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack starring, and the show having a two-year run. The Globe was at one time the home of a resident theatre cat named Beerbohm, with his portrait hanging in the corridor near the stalls.
Seemingly enjoying the limelight, Beerbohm appeared on stage at least once during each production, which caused the actors to have to improvise. The feline resident occupied certain actors’ dressing rooms while they were at the theatre, including actors such as Peter Bowles, Michael Gambon and Penelope Keith. Not content with only appearing on stage, Beerbohm was also mentioned by several actors on the Radio programme Desert Island Discs, and he is currently the only cat to have a front-page obituary in The Stage. Beerbohm died in March 1995 at the age of twenty.
1987 saw the theatre being refurbished, which included extensive work on the gold leaf in the auditorium. The Gielgud is renowned for its beautiful circular Regency staircase, tower and oval gallery. The theatre has presented a number of Alan Ayckbourn premieres, including 1990’s Man of the Moment. Latterly there was Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, An Ideal Husband (1992) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (2004), two notable revivals.
In preparation for the 1997 opening of a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank by Sam Wanamaker, in 1994 the theatre was renamed in honour of John Gielgud. Sir Cameron Mackintosh announced plans to refurbish the Gielgud in 2003, including a joint entrance foyer looking out on to Shaftesbury Avenue, with the adjacent Queen’s Theatre. Delfont Mackintosh Theatres took control of the Gielgud from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Group in 2006.
Work at the front of the theatre started in March 2007 and the interior restoration, including reinstating the boxes at the back of the dress circle, was completed in January 2008.
Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 6AR