Trafalgar Studios appeared in London for the first time in 2004, first of all with the larger Trafalgar Studios 1 and then a year later with the smaller Trafalgar Studios 2. But the venue has a history that goes back further than this, with an array of shows that have passed through its doors over the years, ensuring that many generations of theatregoers have enjoyed great West End theatre in Whitehall, near Trafalgar Square. This is because prior to being known as Trafalgar Studios, the venue first emerged onto the scene in 1930 as the Whitehall Theatre, enjoying a great century alongside the wealth of fellow-venues that emerged in the same year.
Whilst a small group of architects designed a wealth of theatres in the capital, with Thomas Verity providing us with the Criterion and the Comedy Theatres, W G R Sprague giving us the Novello, the Gielgud and others, plus the likes of Bertie Crewe and C J Phipps building plenty of others, the Whitehall Theatre was designed by Edward A Stone. Though Stone is not as well known as other theatre architects of the time, the Whitehall’s interior designer Marc Henry and Laverdet also provided the indoor look of the Piccadilly Theatre.
And so the Whitehall Theatre was born, emerging at a time in which an array of further theatres were arriving in the capital. Being built in 1930 allowed it to miss the trials of the First World War (with Zeppelin bombs causing damage to theatres such as the Novello), but the Second World War was just around the corner, and with it the London Blitz, which stripped the capital of some venues and caused damage to others. But the Whitehall struggled through and provided entertainment during the conflict in the form of revues, including “The Whitehall Follies”. It allowed the theatre scene to continue to flourish at a time of great turmoil.
As the 20th century progressed so did the Whitehall Theatre and by the time of the 1990s the BBC used the venue to house a various radio shows, which lasted until 1999. Then, with theatre returning and the owners of the venue announcing a redesign of the structure, the Whitehall finally became Trafalgar Studios in 2004. So today audiences continue to visit the theatre and witness the array of shows on offer, from great plays and musicals to transfers from across the country.
The first production to appear at the Whitehall Theatre in 1930 was “The Way to Treat A Woman” from writer Walter Hackett. He was also the licensee of the venue and this explains why the show appeared having originally transferred from the Duke of York’s Theatre. Hackett would go on to present further shows for the venue, including a production of his play “Afterwards”, which ran in 1933 and starred the well known actor Henry Daniell as part of its cast, having appeared on stage and in films from 1915 to his death in 1963.
The venue would go on to house productions such as “The Whitehall Follies” and “The Whitehall Farces”, with the former featuring Phyllis Dixey as the first ever stripper to perform in a West End theatre. She had also appeared at the Windmill Theatre in various productions and they had proven to be highly popular with audiences in the capital right up to the end of the 1940s when it began to wane. She also appeared in the movie “Love up the Pole” in 1936.
Nude performances returned in the 1960s when the show “Pyjama Tops” arrived, a nude revue that lasted for five years. But it was the decades ahead that saw the Whitehall Theatre welcome some well known shows and amongst them was a revival of “When We Are Married” by Priestley. The show more recently appeared at the Garrick Theatre in 2010 and follows a group of married couples in a Yorkshire village who are shocked to learn that their standing in the community is in jeopardy when they discover that their marriages are not legal. It was first penned in 1938 and appeared at the Whitehall Theatre in 1986, following a refurbishment earlier in the decade.
Under the name Trafalgar Studios various further shows have appeared on its stage, amongst them the stage adaptation of Simon Grey’s memoirs in “The Last Cigarette”. The venue also welcomed an acclaimed show in the form of Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop”, which managed to beat other acclaimed shows such as “Enron” and “Jerusalem” to win a Laurence Olivier Award in 2010. It tells the story of the final night of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. as he resided in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee, the night before his assassination in 1968. The plot follows him re-evaluating his legacy as his maid Camae forces him to confront events in his past.
Further Facts about Trafalgar Studios
• In 1971 the Whitehall Theatre became “The Theatre of War” under the lease of Paul Raymond, which led to a public enquiry as he had transformed the venue without permission. It led to form the Theatre Trust, which has helped preserve various venues in the capital.
• Amongst the radio shows broadcast from the venue in the 1990s by the BBC was Jack Docherty’s “Live from London” on BBC Radio 4.
|Monday, 27 Feb, 2017||Trafalgar Studio One, London||Buried Child|
|Tuesday, 28 Feb, 2017||Trafalgar Studio One, London||Buried Child|
|Wednesday, 01 Mar, 2017||Trafalgar Studio One, London||Buried Child|
|Thursday, 02 Mar, 2017||Trafalgar Studio One, London||Buried Child|
|Friday, 03 Mar, 2017||Trafalgar Studio One, London||Buried Child|
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