The Ambassadors Theatre stands as the most intimate theatre found in the West End, housing less than 500 people when accounting for both the stalls and the dress circle. But then this was always the plan for the venue found on West Street as it joined the wealth of other venues found within London’s West End. Since it first emerged onto the scene in 1913 it has welcomed many well known names to its auditorium and also one of the most famous shows in the capital – Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” – to make it amongst the most integral to the theatre scene. Today its relatively small auditorium is home to the world famous production “Stomp” and it continues to draw in the crowds.
Much of its history deals with more recent decade in which its name has changed on various occasions and it has also changed hands in the process. With both of these alterations it has also seen its purposes change as well, with the kinds of productions it has welcomed to its stage evolving with the times so that today its production of the ‘percussive dance show’ is a stark contrast to its opening show.
The venue is in fact a sister venue to the nearby St Martin’s Theatre and along with sharing designers in W G R Sprague, they were also planned to open at around the same time. However, thanks to the onset of the First World War it would not be until 1916 that St Martin’s would open with its premiere production. This partnership would last for the rest of the century though and its most famous example relates to the ongoing production of “The Mousetrap”. In 1952 the production opened its doors at the Ambassador’s Theatre and then transferred to St Martin’s in 1974, where it remains today as the longest running show in the world.
In the last couple of decades the venue has come under the control of the Ambassador Theatre Group, under which it became known as the New Ambassador’s Theatre, and then Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen who returned it to its original name of The Ambassadors Theatre. Under both managements the styles and genres of the productions were different, but today it continues to be the home to the blockbuster musical “Stomp”, which remains one of the most famous shows in the West End.
The venue has developed a lot over the years from early plays, progressing to one of the most famous plays in the world and then ending up on one of the most acclaimed and unique dance productions that continues in the West End. This time has also been spent bringing some acclaimed and well known actors to the stage and this has secured an audiences across the last century.
The first production to make its way to the stage of the Ambassadors Theatre was “Panthea”. The play was penned by the well known Monkton Hoffe and would also be adapted into a 1917 movie. Across the century, Hoffe would also go on to create the story to the well known comedy “The Lady Eve”.
Before “The Mousetrap” perhaps the most famous production to appear at the Ambassadors Theatre was “The Mask of Virtue”. The production made its way to the venue in 1935 and received considerable attention thanks to its star – a young Vivien Leigh – who would go on to appear in a wealth of shows and movies. The press lit up with praise for her performance and amongst the audiences that witnessed her was Laurence Olivier, with whom she would embark on a well known romantic affair following their appearance together in “Fire Over England”.
But “The Mousetrap” still remains its most famous show, even if audiences still wishing to see it now have to travel to the nearby St Martin’s Theatre. The show originally appeared at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1952 and ran at the venue for more than twenty years ahead of its transfer. Its accumulate run at both the Ambassadors and St Martin’s has now lasted almost sixty years and is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
The show was penned by Agatha Christie and like any classic story from the famous author it focuses on a murder-mystery inside a large mansion (which has been converted into a hotel in the play). After a winter snow storm brings in a wealth of visitors the owners receive news of a murder in the area and it becomes clear that the murderer is one of their new guests.
More recently, “Stomp” began its run in 2007 and remains in the modern day. Stephen McNicholas and Luke Cresswell’s acclaimed production utilises a range of household items to create a percussive effect. With an array of talented performers, plus imaginative set pieces, it has been a popular production since it was first seen by audiences in the early 1990s.
Further Facts about the Ambassadors Theatre
• Famous names to appear at the Ambassadors Theatre include Vivien Leigh, John Hurt, Richard Wilson, Neve Campbell, Cillian Murphy, Alistair McGowan, Sheridan Smith, Richard Attenborough, Sheila Sim and many others.
• “The Mousetrap” is the longest running show in the world, having appeared in the West End for almost sixty years since 1952. By comparison, “Les Misérables” has been running since 1985 (which is the second longest running show in the West End) and “The Phantom of the Opera” since 1986 (at number three).
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