Charing Cross Theatre

A guide to the Charing Cross Theatre in London's West End

Charing Cross Theatre is one of the smallest theatres in the West End, housing just 265 people in one of London's few surviving Victorian music halls. The venue, which programmes an eclectic mix of late-night cabaret, plays, comedy, live music, fashion shows and musicals, provides a magical setting for that special family day out or theatre visit for two. It is within easy walking distance of attractions such as Leicester Square and the South Bank as well as many popular restaurants. Because of this it's ideally located to cap off a great day's sightseeing and for combining with a great theatre meal deal or drinks.

Located under the The Arches, below Charing Cross railway station, the theatre is next to Charing Cross tube station, two minutes from the Embankment and six minutes from Leicester Square. The splendid interior includes the original Victorian bar at the back of the auditorium with the original glass panelling. In addition, there is a newly renovated pre-theatre restaurant and bar, the latter staying open until 2.30am.

The history

The currently named Charing Cross Theatre opened in 1867 as The Arches, changing name to the Hungerford Music Hall in 1883. Five years later it was known variously as Charing Cross Music Hall, Gatti's Under the Arches and Gatti's Charing Cross Music Hall. The writer Rudyard Kipling lived in Villiers Street as a young man and visited the venue a number of times, experiences that informed his Barrack Room Ballads.

With the decline in the popularity of the music hall, the venue was turned into a cinema for 39 years, between 1901 and 1939, before being used as a fire station during the Second World War and later, a store for the Army Corps of Cinematography. After the war it was bought by TV and film actor Leonard Sachs, best known today as the master of ceremonies on TV's The Good Old Days. Three weeks later, the theatre opened as the Players' Theatre. Among the actors to have appeared are Hattie Jacques, Bill Owen, Clive Dunn and Ian Carmichael. It also gave the premiŠre of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend before it transferred.

The theatre closed its doors in 2002. After unsuccessful attempts by New End Theatre to revive the venue as the New Players' Theatre, the lease was acquired by The Pure Group which now manages the venue.

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