Current Show: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
First previewed 21st March 2018
Booking until 26th June 2022 (resumes 24th June 2021)
Running time: 2h 45m including interval
Address: 49 Aldwych, London WC2B 4DF
Air Conditioning: Yes
Current Owner: Nederlander Theatres
Box Office: +44 (0) 345 200 7981 (Operated by Quay Tickets)
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0) 345 200 7981 (Operated by Quay Tickets)
Stage Door: +44 (0) 20 7836 5537
Many of London’s theatres are accessed from below or above street level. If you need to avoid steps, it is advisable to contact the theatre directly by telephone or email as they will be able to advise you on which seats are most easily accessed. Many have specially adapted wheelchair spaces.
Theatres may be able to provide additional facilities for customers with a hearing or visual impairment and some shows may also offer specific, adapted performances. It’s best to check with the venue directly via one of the following methods:
Access Bookings: Call +44 (0) 844 482 5130
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tubes: Covent Garden, Temple, Holborn, Charing Cross
Buses: 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 59, 68, 76, 87, 91, 168, 171, 172, 188, 243, 341
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
Luxury: One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
Mid: Strand Palace Hotel, 372, Strand, London WC2R 0JJ
Budget: Travelodge Covent Garden, 10 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5RE
When the famous great fire of 1666 destroyed much of Elizabethan London, the area around Drury Lane was spared. As late as 1901, the Aldwych area still contained many Elizabethan houses with projecting wooden jetties as well as several theatres. Sadly, many historic buildings were torn down when the area was extensively redesigned and new wider roads introduced, forming the sweeping arch of what we now know as Aldwych and grand avenue of Kingsway. The Olympic Theatre in old Wych Street (from whence the Aldywch derives) and the Opera Comique in the Strand closed in 1899, the Globe Theatre in Newcastle Street and the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand closing soon afterwards in 1902.
This vast operation to build the new area began in the last years of the nineteenth century but was not finally completed until after the First World War.
The Aldwych Theatre was designed by the celebrated theatre architect WGR Sprague and built by Walter Wallis of Balham – one of a pair of theatres which book-end the Waldorf hotel, the other being the Waldorf Theatre (now the Novello Theatre).
The Aldwych finally opened on 23 December 1905, several months later than its sister theatre and in the end rather hastily, with accounts from the time describing a final dress rehearsal being dramatically cancelled while the building work was finished around the actors feet!
In the early years of the 20th Century, manager Seymour Hicks and his American partner Charles Frohman made the theatre home to musical comedy. The opening production, Bluebell in Fairyland, starred Seymour himself alongside his wife, Ellaline Terriss (daughter of William, the nearby Adelphi Theatre’s resident ghost!).
Productions continued until a hiatus during the First World War during which the theatre was used as a club for Australian servicemen, which probably sounds a lot more glamorous than the drinking den it most likely was.
The Aldwych Theatre has enjoyed two golden ages – the first a series of farces by Ben Travers (1925-33) popularly known as the Aldwych Farces. A number of these farces were also made into popular films.
By the 1940s with Britain at war, ownership of the theatre was assumed by the Abrahams family and for some years the Aldwych was managed by Prince Frank Littler CBE (not an actual Prince) with productions including September Tide with Gertrude Lawrence and A Streetcar Named Desire starring Vivien Leigh.
The theatre’s second golden age came almost 30 years after its first, when the Royal Shakespeare Company made the Aldwych Theatre their London home. On the 15th December 1960, the RSC took over the theatre, remaining for the next 21 years. They assembled many of the finest actors in the country for a series of notable Shakespearean plays as well as hugely successful productions ranging from The War of the Roses to Nickolas Nickleby.
It was while the RSC were in residence that, on Friday 7 August 1970, a particularly violent thunderstorm broke over the West End. Nearly two inches of rain fell in just over 30 minutes, but while other theatres abandoned their shows, the RSC soldiered on with their performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Sir Donald Sinden, playing the part of Malvolio was ‘imprisoned’ beneath the stage. Stuck with his head poking up through a grille, the bars of his prison, and with the water rising fast, there was nothing he could do except carry on with the scene. With the water lapping around the audience’s feet in the front stalls, one actor had to say: ‘How runs the stream’… and got the biggest laugh of the season!
During breaks in the RSC schedule, the impresario Peter Daubeny used the Aldwych to stage his annual World Theatre Seasons (1964 – 75), each running for several weeks. Sir Peter (as he later became) was made a Zulu Chieftain in 1972 after presenting the South African Natal Theatre Workshop’s production of Umabatha (an adaptation of Macbeth).
Despite the RSC finally departing for a new London home in the Barbican, the Aldwych continued to flourish. The final decades of the 20th century welcomed productions including the Cherry Orchard starring Dame Judi Dench and Private Lives starring Dame Joan Collins. Further notable productions including The Importance of Being Earnest with Dame Maggie Smith and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with Dame Diana Rigg and David Suchet.
As the Aldwych Theatre approached its centenary it returned to its origins with a succession of musical productions. Fame enjoyed a run of several years, followed by the Motown musical Dancing in the Streets and later Dirty Dancing which remains the longest running show in the Aldwych’s history at nearly five years. In the 2010s, successful runs of Irving Berlin’s Top Hat and Beautiful: The Carol King Musical preceded a 2017 project to sustainably restore many of the theatre’s original features including gold detailing on plasterwork, marble walls in the orchestra stalls and the re-instatement of banister finials.
The Aldwych Theatre is currently owned and run by Nederlander Theatres.
- La Soiree
- Dance ’til Dawn
- Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies
- Top Hat
- Midnight Tango
- A Round-Heeled Woman
- Cool Hand Luke
- Dirty Dancing
- Dancing In The Streets
- Bedroom Farce
- Mother Clap’s Molly House
- Top Girls
- Thunderbirds FAB
- Mahler’s Conversion
- The Secret Garden (RSC)
- Whistle Down The Wind
Disclaimer: We take care to provide accurate information. Records prior to internet age can be difficult to verify so we only list productions back as far as the year 2000, however we hold some records prior to this date offline. If you would like more information, or are aware of any errors, please contact us here. “One night only” productions and private theatre hires are not listed.
Arthur Lloyd’s Theatre Website offers an encyclopaedic insight into the history of the West End’s theatres.
Theatricalia is a database of past & future theatre productions.
Thisistheatre also offers interesting insights into the history of London’s theatres.
The Theatres Trust offers information and support for our nation’s theatres.
London Theatres by Michael Coveney & Peter Dazeley, is available from Waterstones and Amazon and provides stunning photography and commentary on London’s iconic theatres.