Located in the Haymarket at the heart of the West End, the Haymarket Royal Theatre is the third oldest working theatre in London, having been in existence since 1720. The exterior of the current building dates back to 1820 when the theatre opened with a production of Sheridan's The Rivals.
However, the interior was remodelled in 1904. The theatre is close to attractions such as the National Gallery. It also has easy access to restaurants and pubs nearby making it ideally located for pre- or post-theatre drinks or a meal.
It has a long and illustrious history. The author Henry Fielding, best known for Tom Jones, staged his plays here, while the première of A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, his first play, was given here in 1893. More recently it has staged popular musicals such as Acorn Antiques and The Genius of Ray Charles.
It is a very short walk from Piccadilly Circus tube station, and just a few minutes further to Leicester Square and Charing Cross. It seats 893 people across four levels: stalls, dress and royal circles and balcony.
The theatre served over a number of years as an alternative to others in the West End. In particular it offered an alternative to pantomime and shows dominated by special effects. It hosted a number of satires of the government of Robert Walpole in the early 18th century. These included Hurlothrumbo and the mock-opera The Dragon of Wantley, both by Henry Carey, with the latter proving a huge success. The Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 put an end to such satires and all but entirely closed the theatre. In 1749 it did close after an audience rioted and gutted the theatre. An act, The Bottle Conjuror, whom, an unknown hoaxer claimed, would place himself inside a wine bottle in full view of the audience, failed to show up.
All the buildings east of the Haymarket and south of the theatre were rebuilt in the 1820 to a design by John Nash and the present façade of the theatre, with its classical pedimented portico supported by six Corinthian columns, is his design. After The Rivals the theatre became well known for its comedies and most of the great actors of this time appeared on its stage. In 1862 it staged Our American Cousin, which starred Edward Sothern as Lord Dundreary. Though now obscure the play gave rise to the adjective 'dreary'.
The theatre is also notable for being the first to introduce matinees which began in 1873. In 1904 the auditorium was redesigned in the Louis XVI style by C Stanley Peach. The 1940s and 1950s were notable for a season led by John Gielgud who directed the West End première of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward making an atypical appearance in The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw.
More recently the Haymarket has staged notable productions of Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Hall's revival of The Master Builder by Ibsen and featuring Alan Bates and Robert Lindsay in a revival of Cyrano de Bergerac. Others include Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams starring Lauren Bacall, Flare Path by Terence Rattigan with Siena Miller and Sheridan Smith, One Man, Two Guvnors, transferred from the National Theatre, and Ralph Fiennes as Prospero in The Tempest.
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