Playhouse Theatre

A guide to the Playhouse Theatre in London's West End

Opening as the Royal Avenue Theatre in 1882, the Playhouse Theatre as it is now known, began life as a venue for burlesques and farces. But it took an abrupt turn when it hosted the premiere of George Bernard Shaw's first play Arms and the Man.

Since then it has gone on to present a wide range of productions from classic drama, including transfers of the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions, rock concerts and, of late, blockbuster musicals. It is located within easy walking distance of pubs and restaurants. This makes it an ideal venue if you're looking to combine your visit with a meal. Check out our great theatre meal deals, or post- or pre-theatre drinks.

Situated on Northumberland Avenue, close to the Embankment, the theatre is one minute's walk from Embankment tube station, two minutes from Charing Cross and seven minutes from Leicester Square. It has a capacity of 786 accommodated across three levels, stalls, dress circle and upper circle. It was extensively refurbished in the 1990s under the guidance of English Heritage and its lavish murals, caryatids, golden pillars and gilded colour scheme have been restored to all their glory. You'll find it an inspiring setting for your trip to London's theatreland, whether it's a special family day out, or an occasion just for two.

The history

The Playhouse has undergone a rich and strange transformation over a century and more. Farce is a recurring theme, from early comic operas and burlesques with frequent early appearances by music hall favourite Arthur Roberts, known for his 'low' humour, to the farces of Ray Cooney in the 1990s. In between times it has seen the stage debut of Alec Guinness in Ward Dorane's play Libel! Then there was the premiere of W Somerset Maugham's Home and Beauty in 1919 and the debut of George Bernard Shaw as a playwright. Arms and the Man proved such a success that it enabled him to concentrate on working as a playwright.

In 1951 the theatre was taken over as a recording venue by the BBC who recorded radio episodes of The Goon Show, Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son. It has also served as an arena for rock bands including Pink Floyd, who broadcast from here in 1967, as well as The Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones.

In 1987 the theatre was restored to its original 1907 design and reopened with the musical Girlfriends. The theatre passed into the hands of former politician and author Jeffrey Archer in 1988. During this time it enjoyed critical and commercial success with productions by the Peter Hall Company that included The Rose Tattoo (1991) by Tennessee Williams which starred Julie Roberts. More recently it has found a new lease of life with hit musicals such as The Rocky Horror Show, Dancing in the Streets and Monty Python's Spamalot.

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