The Royal Avenue Theatre had its first production on Saturday 11th March 1882 with a revival of Offenbach’s Madame Favart. The prefix “Royal” was very soon dropped from the theatre’s name. For several years comic operas, burlesques and similar shows remained the main source of entertainment. For much of this time, Arthur Roberts, a very popular star of music halls led the company at the Avenue Theatre.
In the early 1890s the emphasis of productions changed to drama and in 1894 Miss Annie Horniman, the tea heiress, later a pioneer of the repertory movement, anonymously sponsored actress Florence Farr in a season of plays. Unfortunately, the first production wasn’t successful, however, Miss Farr persuaded her friend, George Bernard Shaw, to complete his play, Arms and the Man, as a quick replacement which resulted in his first West End production. It was enough to convince him to drop his music critique in favour of playwriting.
The theatre re-opened as The Playhouse Theatre on Monday 28th January 1907 with a one-act play called The Drums of Oudh together with a play by Tristan Bernard and Andre Godferneaux, called Toddles. Since that time the Playhouse has hosted the likes of W S Gilbert, legendary actress-manager Gladys Cooper, The Almeida Theatre Company, The Peter Hall Company, the BBC, and Janet McTeer.
January 2003, saw Maidstone Productions taking over the ownership of the Theatre. The company was owned by London and Broadway producers Ted and Norman Tulchin, who had been behind a number of hit productions on both sides of the Atlantic. The Ambassador Theatre Group took over the ownership of the Playhouse Theatre in March 2003.
Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5DEPlayhouse Theatre