Current Show: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
First preview: Monday 6th November 2017
Booking until: 29th August 2021 (resumes 20th May 2021)
Running time: 2h 40m including one interval
Address: Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES (sometimes listed as W1D 7EZ)
Air Conditioning: Yes
Current Owner: Nimax Theatres
Box Office: +44 (0) 330 333 4809
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0) 330 333 4809
Stage Door: +44 (0) 20 7851 2711
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: +44 (0) 330 333 4815
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tubes: Piccadilly Circus & Leicester Square
Buses: 1, 14, 19, 22, 24, 29, 38, 55, 176
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
One of the enduringly iconic images of London’s theatreland is a cluster of theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue. Centremost of those is the beautiful Grade II listed Apollo Theatre (originally intended to be called the Mascot Theatre, the building was instead named after the Greek god of the arts and leader of the muses, Apollo). The Apollo was the fourth Theatre built on the newly constructed Shaftesbury Avenue (the street was completed in 1887). The original Shaftesbury Theatre opened first in 1888 but was destroyed on 17thApril 1941 in a German bombing raid. Next was the Lyric Theatre opening in December 1888. Three years later, the Royal English Opera House (now the Palace Theatre opened and so in 1901, The Apollo became the fourth theatre on this famous thoroughfare and the first new theatre of the Edwardian age.
Designed by architect Lewin Sharp for polish born impresario Henry Lowenfeld and constructed by Walter Wallis, because Lowenfeld had purchased the land on which it stood, it is one of the few London Theatres to be freehold.
As architect, Sharp was a surprising choice to many as he had no previous experience in theatrical design, but with his elegant French Renaissance façade (sculpted stone fascia by T. Simpson) and original interiors by Dutch artist Hubert van Hooydonk, the building was proved an instant hit with the London theatre cognoscenti.
The building was constructed entirely of steel, brick and stone and was pillarless, thus guaranteeing all a complete view of the stage. The structure enclosed a four-level auditorium, with three cantilevered balconies and a first-floor central loggia. The original capacity of 893 is today closer to 775 seats, although with the balcony on the 3rd tier (considered the steepest in London) currently closed, the true capacity is actually closer to 666.
The four figures on the top of the facade of the Theatre were created by Frederick Thomas, of Gloucester and Cheltenham, for the Theatre’s opening and represent Poetry, Music, Comedy and Dance. Inside, the original décor was crimson, white, and gold, with the aim to provide “a feast of colour”.
The Edwardian period was a time when theatrical trends and audience expectations were rapidly changing. Where previously it was commonplace for seating below the overhang of the balconies to be hard bench seats, when the Apollo opened, the rear stalls seats offered just as much comfort as to those with more wealth at their disposal. In addition, each level of seating was provided with its own promenade and entertaining area to enable audiences to socialise during intervals.
Particular attention was paid within the building’s designs to the distribution of sound from the orchestra pit around the auditorium and to “a novel method of throwing light direct on the faces…from a space between the stalls and dress circle boxes” with limelights illuminating the stage on the level of the actors’ faces with the ultimate aim of abolishing footlights.
The Apollo opened its doors on 21st February 1901, less than a month after the death of Queen Victoria, with America musical comedy The Bell of Bohemia. The opening night caused uproar in theatrical circles when it was announced that the inaugural performance, on Thursday 21st February 1901, would be exclusively for a invited audience. The first public performance actually happened the following day, Friday 22nd February, leading to a hostile (if small) demonstration at the theatre. The Times newspaper refused to review the ‘private’ performance, instead opting to attend the public Friday evening performance stating that “part of the duty of a newspaper in dealing with theatrical entertainments is to record their reception by the public, and this cannot, of course, be done when the ordinary paying public are not admitted.”
Owing to the relatively unsuccessful opening run of The Bell of Bohemia, impresario Tom B. Davis took a lease on the building, and hence management of operations, from 1902. A succession of musical comedies followed throughout the first decade of the 20th century and in 1908 a four year run of Harry Gabriel Pelissier’s The Follies which ran successfully in various versions here between 1908 and 1912. Two of The Follies became established hits – the 1908 version clocking up 571 performances and the 1910 version running for 521 performances.
In the early 1920s, theatre management was assumed by George Grossmith Jr and Edward Laurillard who presented a series of plays and revivals then, in 1928, the Apollo turned its creative gaze upon more serious drama with a production of R.C. Sherriff’s devastating examination of war, Journey’s End. The play, which featured a 21 year old Laurence Olivier, was only performed after George Bernard Shaw persuaded the theatre’s owners that such a play could attract an audience despite the lack of a leading lady.
In 1932 renovation works began, with changes to some interior features overseen by the renowned theatre architect Ernest Shaufelberg. During these works, a private foyer and anteroom were added to the Royal Box. The 1930s featured a series of plays written by Walter Hackett and starring his wife, Marion Lorne although the big hit of the decade came later with Ian Hay’s Housemaster enjoying a run of 662 performances.
In 1944, control of the Apollo changed hands once more, this time with Prince Frank Littler CBE taking control. A revival of Noël Coward’s Private Lives followed and in 1948 Margaret Rutherford starred in The Happiest Days of Your Life. As the decade came to a close, Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson starred in Treasure Hunt, directed by Sir John Gielgud.
In the 1950s, Seagulls over Sorrento enjoyed a run of several years, racking up 1,551 performances – at the time the third longest run of a play in West End history but although at the time that made it the longest running production here at the Apollo, it was overtaken when Marc Camoletti’s farce Boeing Boeingopened here on Tuesday 20th February 1962 running for three years before transferring to the Duchess Theatre in May 1965.
In 1975, the Apollo was purchased by Stoll Moss Group. A number of hit comedies transferred to or from the theatre in the 1970s and 1980s, and in 1976 another Rattigan play enjoyed success here with John Mills starring in Separate Tables.
The 1980s saw star turns from Albert Finney (Orphans), Paul Scofield (I’m Not Rappaport) and Eileen Atkins (Thursday’s Ladies) and it was here at the Apollo Theatre that Sir John Gielgud made his final West End stage appearance in Hugh Whitemore’s play The Best of Friends on Saturday 23rd April 1988. As the 1980s drew to a close, a short run of Jeffery Bernard is Unwell enjoyed success with Peter O’Toole as the heavy-drinking journalist.
Success continued in the early 1990s with Camelotti farce Don’t Dress For Dinner running for 19 months before transferring to the Duchess Theatre. Other successes included Penelope Wilton in Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea and Peter Bowles in In Praise of Love although not every show hit gold and by contrast, in 1996 play Sylvia, despite starring Zoë Wannamaker as a dog, closed within two weeks.
In 2000, the theatre changed hands again, this time being sold to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and Bridgepoint Capital. During their reign, perhaps the most notable production was Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia, starring Jonathan Pryce and Eddie Redmayne – its subject matter shocked some audience members so much that it wasn’t unusual to hear the sound of chairs flipping up as those of a sensitive nature left half-way through Act One, while others sat transfixed.
In 2005, Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer purchased several West End theatres, including the Apollo, creating Nimax Theatres. Since then, several highly successful productions have transferred here including Jerusalem, all-male productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night and perhaps most infamously, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The Curious Incident proved that life often imitates art when, on 19th December 2013, a performance of the play came to an abrupt end just 40 minutes into Act One when part of the ceiling collapsed onto the audience below, bringing down a lighting rig and a section of the balcony, trapping two people and injuring around 80 members of the attending public. The collapse, which was preceded by heavy rain, was eventually revealed to be the result of a deterioration of wadding ties which supported the ceiling, thought to have been in place since the theatre’s construction in 1901. After extensive investigations, and the closure of the balcony, The Apollo finally re-opened on Wednesday 26th March 2014 with a transfer of National Theatre of Scotland’s highly acclaimed romantic horror Let the Right One In – the ceiling remains hidden by a painted cloth with the balcony closed although this may be a relief to those without a head for heights as it is considered the steepest in London.
The Apollo’s intimate stage and auditorium in fact make it a natural choice for serious drama and although a recent run of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has enjoyed a stay of several years, it remains plays for which The Apollo is best known.
The Apollo Theatre is currently owned and operated by Nimax Theatres.
- Horrible Histories (daytimes only)
- The Snail & The Whale (daytimes only)
- Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
- Love in Idleness
- Peter Pan Goes Wrong
- The Go-Between
- Nell Gwynn
- Peter Pan Goes Wrong
- Showstopper: The Improvised Musical
- Dear Lupin
- The Audience
- My Night with Reg
- Let the Right One In
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
- Twelfth Night/Richard III in repertory
- Idina Menzel in Concert
- What You Will
- Long Day’s Journey Into Night
- The Madness of George III
- Yes, Prime Minister
- Blithe Spirit
- My Trip Down the Pink Carpet
- The Country Girl
- All My Sons
- Debbie Reynolds: Alive and Fabulous
- Camille O’Sullivan: Dark Angel (evenings only)
- The Gruffalo (daytimes only)
- Dylan Moran: What It Is
- Ross Noble: Things
- Carrie’s War
- Three Days of Rain
- Rain Man
- The Vortex
- An Audience with the Mafia
- Glengarry Glen Ross
- The Glass Menagerie
- Summer & Smoke
- Fool for Love
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
- Mary Stuart
- The Big Life
- A Live in the Theatre
- Bill Bailey: Part Troll
- The Puppetry of the Penis
- Ross Noble: Noodlemeister
- The Goat, or Who is Silvia
- The Price
- My Brilliant Divorce
- The Constant Wife
- Star Quality
- The (Female) Odd Couple
- Fallen Angels
- They Shoot Horses Don’t They?
- Side Man
- A Saint She Ain’t
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.