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Noël Coward Theatre

Noël Coward Theatre

Noël Coward Theatre St Martins Lane, London WC2N 4AA

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Seating Plan Seating Plan: View Seating Plan Open in new window
Nearest Tube Station Tube Station: Leicester Square (approx. 100m)
Parking Parking: MasterPark at China Town and Trafalgar Square. NCP at Upper St Martin's Lane.
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Venue Information:
Total Seats: 872
No of Bars: 3
No of Food Point: 0
No of Parking Spaces: 0
Guide Dogs Guide Dogs: Dogs are not generally allowed inside the auditorium. They can be looked after by the theatre staff during the performance (maximum 2). Please inform us when booking if possible.
Sound Amplification Infra-Red: Infra-red system with 12 headsets. Deposit required. Collect headsets from centre desk in foyer - reserve by caling box office.
Disabled Wheelchair Access Disabled Access: There is a ramp (gradient 30-40%, handrail on right-hand side) through the second side EXIT door on St Martin's Court. Box M (door 68cm wide) has 2 spaces for wheelchair/scooter users, or 1 wheelchair user and a companion. Companions can also be seated in the Royal Circle. Transfer seating available to any aisle seat in Royal Circle. 2 wheelchairs and 2 scooters maximum. Wheelchairs stored in the cloakroom, scooters in the foyer. Groups should ring in advance.
Toilets Toilets: Woman's: Foyer: 2 steps up, 4 small cubicles - 1st one by door largest. Stalls: rear of stalls in auditorium 3 cubicles. Grand Circle: outside auditorium 4 cubicles. <br> Men's: Foyer/Royal Circle: None on level except disabled toilet. Stalls: front stalls in corridor by Box A - 1 cubicle rear of auditorium - 1 cubicle Grand Circle: inside auditorium 1 cubicle Balcony: inside auditorium 1 cubicle
Steps Steps: 3 steps to main door. 3 steps from foyer to the back of the royal circle, with two steps between rows. 30 steps down to the stalls and 30 up the the grand circle.
Air Conditioning Air Conditioning: Yes
Venue Owner Owner: Delfont Mackintosh

The decorative brochure published to mark the opening of the New Theatre on 12 March 1903 described it as the 'acme of perfection'. Certainly the architect, William Sprague, who had by now designed 30 theatres, demonstrated exceptional surety of hand and attention to detail at the New. The interior was designed in the Louis XVI style with the predominant colours being white and gold. The beauty of the stage curtain and box drapes made of rose du barri silk brocade and antique rose velvet were particularly remarked upon in the journals of the time. The theatre was built by the famous actor-manager, Charles Wyndham, on the part of the site that remained after he and his wife, the actress Mary Moore, had built Wyndham's Theatre in 1899. Thus Wyndham's and the New are back to back and have always been managed as a theatrical duo. Being a man of the theatre Charles Wyndham ensured that the stage lighting and electrics were state of the art. He and his wife also considered the needs of the audience; all seats had an unimpeded view of the stage - Wyndham chose the Aubusson tapestry that covered the seats in the stalls and dress circle himself - and everywhere had a comfortable and homely feel.

The production that opened the theatre was Rosemary, a comedy by Louis Parker and Murray Carson, in which Charles Wyndham and Mary Moore had previously appeared with great success. For the next ten years they performed regularly together at the New, on several occasions in their other popular hit David Garrick. In July 1903 Mrs Patrick Campbell played Paula in Pinero's The Second Mrs Tanqueray, the role that had first made her famous with London audiences in 1893 and Johnston Forbes-Robertson gave his notable rendition of the artist Dick Heldar in The Light That Failed, based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling.

Between 1905 and 1913 Fred Terry and his wife, Julia Neilson, took the theatre for an annual season. It was at the New that The Scarlet Pimpernel received its London premiere on 26 December 1905. Audiences loved this play, public demand for Terry as 'That damned elusive Pimpernel' was constant and it was revived at the New no less than seven times. Terry and his wife also appeared together in Dorothy o' the Hall and Henry of Navarre and in 1911 Fred Terry directed his daughter, Phyllis in As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet.

During the First World War Martin Harvey and his wife were Reresby the Rat and Batty in one of their favourite plays, The Breed of the Treshams that was later made into a film. Peter Pan was another war-time Christmas favourite, being performed each year between 1915 and 1919. In 1917 Fay Compton played Peter in the first of several plays by J.M. Barrie in which she appeared.

NoŽl Coward made his West End debut in 1920 as Bobbie Dermott in his own play, a light comedy called I'll Leave It To You. The critics thought it a debut of note, but the play did not strike a chord with the public and closed after five weeks. Sybil Thorndike had what many considered the greatest success of her career when she created the role of Joan in George Bernard Shaw's St Joan in March 1924. Shaw wrote the play with her in mind for the revolutionary leading lady and it did indeed prove a meeting of like minds.

NoŽl Coward returned to the theatre in 1926 to play the dishevelled, pipe-smoking, composer Lewis Dodd in the stage adaptation of Margaret Kennedy's novel The Constant Nymph. Cathleen Nesbitt was his wife Florence and Edna Best gave a fine performance as Tessa, the true love of his life. In 1932 a play called Napoleon: the Hundred Days by Benito Mussolini and Giovacchino Forzano received a short run. However, Mussolini's ability as a playwright was clearly limited as, notwithstanding the novelty value of the New being the only theatre in London to stage a play by a living Dictator, it ran for just 32 performances.

Far more successful were John Gielgud's regular appearances at the New during the 1930s, initially in Richard of Bordeaux with Gwen FfrangÁon-Davies which established him as a star actor. Subsequently he took the lead in Hamlet, Noah, Romeo and Juliet and The Seagull. The casts were illustrious, Romeo and Juliet including Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Edith Evans, George Devine and Alec Guinness. The latter made his debut at the theatre in 1934 playing Osric in Hamlet.

During the Second World War the theatre became home to the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells companies when their own theatres were damaged. The Vic-Wells ballet gave their first West End performance of Les Sylphides, FaÁade and Dante Sonata, starring Margot Fonteyn and Frederick Ashton, on 14 January 1941. Between 1941 and 1944 they premiered eight ballets at the New including Robert Helpmann's version of a tormented Hamlet with equally disturbing designs by Leslie Hurry and Ninette de Valois' productions of Orpheus and Eurydice and Promenade. Regular, lengthy queues round the block were an indication of the calibre of the Old Vic seasons. Writing of Olivier as Richard III, John Mills said, 'Laurence Olivier made his entrance, limped slowly to the centre of the stage, glared round the house and then proceeded to give the most majestic, and inspired performance I have ever seen.' Similarly it was standing room only when Olivier appeared as King Lear, with Alec Guinness as the Fool, or with his wife, Vivien Leigh, in The School for Scandal and Antigone. Ralph Richardson was equally acclaimed as Falstaff, Peer Gynt and Cyrano.

T.S. Eliot's comedy of manners, The tail Party, received its London premiere at the New in 1950 with Rex Harrison as the mysterious Unidentified Guest. The following year Katharine Hepburn made her West End debut as Epifania in The Millionairess. As with Sybil Thorndike in St Joan, Shaw had wanted her to play this role, describing her as "the born decider, tor, organiser, tactician, mesmeriser".

Vivien Leigh returned to the theatre in 1959 in Feydeau's French farce, Look After Lulu. NoŽl Coward had adapted it largely as a vehicle for her and she played the role of Lulu with great comedic aplomb.

1960 brought Lionel Bart's groundbreaking musical Oliver!. It opened on 30 June with an advance of just £145 and was an instant hit. The strength of the storyline, combined with the designer Sean Kenny's bold, mechanised set that pushed technical boundaries to new limits, created a show that went on to become the longest running musical of its generation, finally closing in September 1967 after 2,618 performances. A decade later Cameron Mackintosh brought the show back to the theatre for a three year run starring Roy Hudd as Fagin.

The theatre changed its name from the New to the Albery in 1973 to commemorate Mary Moore's son, Sir Bronson Albery, who presided over its fortunes for many years. Bronson was in turn succeeded by his son, Donald, and grandson, Ian. Thus, the Albery family made a unique contribution to the history of the theatre as both managers and producers between 1903 and 1987.

John Dexter's ground-breaking production of Peter Shaffer's dark, psychological play, Equus, transferred from the National Theatre in 1976. The designer John Napier made a mesmerising contribution to its success by creating wire horses heads and hooves for the actors that enabled them to move like real animals.

1981 saw another very powerful new play, Children of a Lesser God, that garnered Olivier awards for the playwright, Mark Medoff and for the leading actor and actress Trevor Eve and Elizabeth Quinn. Contemporary Liverpool came to the West End stage in Willy Russell's musical Blood Brothers in 1988. Like Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat - an early version of which was performed at the Albery in 1973 - Blood Brothers started life as a school production before being adapted as a full scale musical.

People were once more queueing outside the theatre in 1994 to see Helen Mirren and John Hurt in Turgenev's A Month in the Country. This was the Albery's most successful play ever and Mirren's personal success as Natalya Petrovna led to her Broadway debut the following year.

The Donmar Warehouse transferred their production of Company, directed by Sam Mendes, to the Albery in 1996 with Adrian Lester making history as the first black actor to star in a Sondheim show. Three years later the Almeida presented their first West End season, Diana Rigg played leading roles in Phedre and Britannicus and Cate Blanchett was Susan Traherne in David Hare's play Plenty, a study of the personal conflict war continues to exert long after it is over.

In 2002 Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman took London by storm with their modern, highly charged performances as Amanda and Elyot in NoŽl Coward's play Private Lives. The same year Shockheaded Peter, variously described as a junk opera and freak show, with music by the Tiger Lillies, enjoyed a popular revival.

On 19 September 2005 the long lease on the theatre reverted from the then owners, Ambassador Theatre Group, to the Salisbury Estate who granted a new lease to Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. Since then it has been extensively refurbished. The foyers and corridors have been redecorated and re-carpeted. The balcony has been rebuilt, all the auditorium seats have been replaced and are upholstered in the damask rose colour that was an original feature of the theatre. The stalls bar (now NoŽl's Bar) has been restored to its original size and completely refurbished.

Backstage the dressing rooms have been upgraded, the two principal dressing rooms are now called NoŽl and Gertie after NoŽl Coward and his favourite leading lady, Gertrude Lawrence. The theatre reopened on 1 June 2006 under its new name the NoŽl Coward Theatre in honour of the great playwright, composer and actor who made his West End debut there in 1920. The reopening production was the Tonyģ Award winning Broadway musical, Avenue Q.

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