The grand and eccentric decor of the Playhouse Theatre make it an ideal location for photo-shoots and filming, whilst the large auditorium and multiple bars are perfect for conference and lecture hires. The theatre is popularly used as a venue for high-profile comedy nights and charity events, and has been used as a base for ‘The Samaritans’ London Marathon Event for the last two years. The theatre’s central location, just off the Strand and in close proximity to Embankment and Charing Cross stations, provide excellent transport links, whilst its picturesque views over the River Thames make it a truly unique venue for hire.
The Playhouse Theatre is available for hire on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am-4pm (earlier starts can be facilitated), and is available throughout the day and evening on Sundays.
The land on which the theatre is built was originally purchased by Sefton Parry, who intended to sell it on to those heading the expansion of Charing Cross Station. Luckily for us, the station expanded in the other direction, and so in 1882 the original theatre on this site, the Royal Avenue Theatre, was built. The Royal Avenue was quite different to the Playhouse Theatre as it stands today- with a capacity of 1,500, it was home to lighter comic operas and burlesque shows, before dropping the ‘Royal’ from its name and taking on a more serious profile. However, in 1905, during refurbishment works, the roof of the theatre collapsed, tragically killing several of the workers on site. The theatre was largely rebuilt, and reopened as the Playhouse Theatre in 1907, and so many of the theatre’s features date back to the early twentieth century. Fascinatingly the theatre’s under-stage is one of the few theatres in the country to have all of its Victorian woodworks and stage machinery in tact, including a fully functioning thunder-run!
In 1950 the theatre was sold to the BBC, and for the following 25 years became one of the BBC’s major recording centres, with such prolific radio programmes as The Goon Show, Hancock’s Half Hour, and Dad’s Army being recorded there, as well as recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin.
Unlike many of our older theatres, the Playhouse Theatre does not have a resident ghost, but there does exist the legend of the Edward Maude carving, found in the theatre foyer. Son of infamous actor-manager, Cyril Maude, popular belief holds that the expression on Edward’s face is changeable, according to the success of the current playing production. Reassuringly he couldn’t look happier at the moment!