With a long history that dates back to 1898, the Wyndham’s Theatre is a treasured part of the West End and a location that has housed a wide range of different shows and performers over the last century. As its title might suggest, it was named for the commissioner of the project Charles Wyndham and whilst other venues have seen their names changes on various occasions over the century, the Wyndham’s Theatre is amongst those that has retained its title, though certain refurbishment have kept it fresh and updated for the modern age. As a result it still welcomes high profile shows today and in the last decade also welcomed some well known names for a season of productions from the Donmar Warehouse.
It might not be surprising to hear that it was the prolific theatre architect W G R Sprague that designed the Wyndham’s Theatre, having also worked with Charles Wyndham on other projects such as the New Theatre (now the Noel Coward Theatre). Sprague also designed venues such as the Aldwych Theatre, the Novello Theatre, the Gielgud Theatre, the Queen’s Theatre, the Ambassador’s Theatre and St Martin’s Theatre. So it is no wonder that he stands up alongside Bertie Crewe, C J Phipps and Thomas Verity as a well known designer of some of the West End’s most famous structures.
So the West End was provided with a brand new theatre to see in the dawn of the twentieth century, a trying time for any building in the capital, which would go on to face horrors such as the London Blitz. Some theatres did not survive and others, such as the Queen’s Theatre, would be damaged but Wyndham’s was not one of them and as a result it still stands on its location on Charing Cross Road to this day and thanks to its listing as a Grade II* building, there will be no threat of demolition, allowing it to continue to flourish well into the future.
Recent years have been kind to Wyndham’s Theatre, with Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys” and the outrageous puppet musical “Avenue Q” amongst the shows to make their way here, in addition to the mentioned Donmar Warehouse season in the West End in from 2008 to 2009. As a result it has staged everything from musicals and plays to comedy and famous film adaptations during its tenure in the capital.
The first production to appear at the new Wyndham’s Theatre in 1899 was “David Garrick” by T W Robertson. The play was a comedy concerning the well known actor and director of the same name (after whom the West End’s Garrick Theatre is named). The show was written in 1864 and was originally seen by audiences in Birmingham ahead of its Haymarket Theatre West End debut later in the same year. The appearance at the Wyndham’s Theatre was one of many revivals for the shows throughout the era, having proven to be one of Robertson’s most successful pieces.
Later on, in the 20th century, Wyndham’s Theatre welcomed “The Boy Friend”, a musical from Sandy Wilson, which turned out to be a long-running hit despite the small scale of the production. Described as a comic pastiche, it focuses on the French Riviera in the 1920s and is well known for its ease-of-staging, meaning that it has since been a popular choice of amateur dramatics groups. But the original London production, which started out life at the Players’ Theatre, managed to clock up more than 2,000 performances during its run, making it one of the longest running shows ever up to that time.
Decades later, Wyndham’s Theatre would be the home of the world premiere of Arthur Miller’s play “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan” in 1991. A play that looks at monogamy and suggests that it is an unnatural social convention, it focuses on a man leading dual lives married to two women, with these two worlds colliding when he is hospitalised after an accident. Ultimately his wives must decide whether or not to leave him or to continue to lead the lives that they have made for themselves. The play would go on to be a success on Broadway as well, whilst a movie version is said to be in development.
More recently, the venue has been the home to a prestigious season of shows presented by the Donmar Warehouse, which included productions of “Madame de Sade”, “Ivanov”, “Twelfth Night” and “Hamlet”, with stars such as Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law amongst the casts. The season ran from September 2008 to August 2009 and would then make way for those such as “The Shawshank Redemption” – based on the acclaimed movie of the same name - “An Inspector Calls”, “Avenue Q” and “Dandelion Mind” from comedian Bill Bailey.
Further Facts about Wyndham’s Theatre
Famous names to appear at Wyndham’s Theatre include Alec Guinness, Jeremy Irons, Ken Stott, Sienna Miller, Reece Shearsmith, Reg E Cathey, Richard Griffiths, Dylan Moran, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Jude Law, Derek Jacobi and Bill Bailey, amongst others.
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