Designed by architect W.G.R. Sprague, the Aldwych Theatre opened on 23rd December 1905 and is a Grade II listed building.
The venue opened with a production of the Christmas musical Bluebell, a ‘musical dream play’, written by the legendary Seymour Hicks and Walter Slaughter starring Ellaline Terriss as Bluebell as well as Hicks himself.
The theatre was described by The Times at the time as being “both handsome and cosy-looking in its simple, dignified Georgian way, with a colour scheme of Rose du Barri, with armchair stalls as comfortable as those at the Gaiety Theatre, with a particularly good dress circle, and with every modern convenience both before and behind the footlights”. The theatre originally had four levels of seats, but now only three levels are used.
Over the years, the Aldwych Theatre had a number of important theatrical associations. First was the Aldwych Farces – a term that came to be used to describe a series of highly popular farces or situation comedies, written by Ben Travers and performed at the venue over an eight-year period from 1925. Some were so popular they were made into movies.
Second was the fact that the venue became the London home of The Royal Shakespeare Company in December 1960. The RSC opened their first season at the theatre with John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, starring Peggy Ashcroft, which then played in repertory with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. While the RSC's stay at the Aldwych Theatre was initially only meant to last three years, they didn't actually leave until 1982!
Notable productions at the Aldwych include the 1990 revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives starring Joan Collins and The Almeida Theatre's production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Diana Rigg and David Suchet. It transferred to the venue in 1996 and the popular David Hare play Amy's View, starring Dame Judi Dench, transferred from the National in 1998.
Productions of Whistle Down The Wind, Fame and Dirty Dancing have all enjoyed successful runs since 2000. The musical adaptation of Top Hat and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Stephen Ward, brings us to the present day.