|Address||Great Newport Street|
|Public transit||Leicester Square|
|Operator||JJ Goodman Ltd.|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Opened||5 June 1913|
|Architect||P. Morley Holder|
The Arts Theatre is a theatre in Great Newport Street, in Westminster, Central London.
It opened on 20 April 1927 as a members-only club for the performance of unlicensed plays, thus avoiding theatre censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's office. It was one of a small number of committed, independent theatre companies, including the Hampstead Everyman, the Gate Theatre Studio and the Q Theatre, which took risks by producing a diverse range of new and experimental plays, or plays that were thought to be commercially non-viable on the West End. The theatrical producer Norman Marshall referred to these as 'The Other Theatre' in his 1947 book of the same name.
The theatre opened with a revue by Herbert Farjeon entitled Picnic, produced by Harold Scott and with music by Beverley Nichols. Its first important production was Young Woodley by John Van Druten, staged in 1928, which later transferred to the Savoy Theatre when the Lord Chamberlain's ban was lifted. In 1938, a four-week revival of the Stokes brothers' Oscar Wilde , starring Francis L. Sullivan and produced by Ronald Adam, opened on 25 October. This coincided with a Broadway production of the play. In 1940 the ballet La fête étrange was staged at the theatre, choreographed by Andrée Howard. It has subsequently been performed over 200 times by The Royal Ballet, and by Scottish Ballet.
In 1942, Alec Clunes and John Hanau took over the running of the theatre and for ten years produced a wide range of plays, winning a reputation as a 'pocket national theatre'. In 1946, Clunes teamed with author Peter Elstob to raise £20,000, which eventually put the theatre on a sound financial footing.
Ronnie Barker made his West End début at the production of Mourning Becomes Electra at the Arts Theatre in 1955 which was directed by Sir Peter Hall, with whom Barker had worked at the Oxford Playhouse. Barker remained a West End actor for some years, appearing in numerous plays between 1955 and 1968. These included two performances each night as he played a gypsy in Listen to the Wind at the Arts Theatre in 1955. In August 1955, aged 24, Hall directed the English-language premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the theatre.This was an important turning point in modern theatre for Britain. Subsequently, from 1956 to 1959, Hall ran the Arts Theatre.
Between April 1962 and January 1967 the Arts Theatre was known as the New Arts Theatre.
From 1967 to 1999 the Arts also became a home for the Unicorn children's theatre, under the direction of its founder Caryl Jenner. She took over the lease, initially for six years.Meanwhile, adult performances continued in the evening, including Tom Stoppard's satirical double-bill Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land which, opening in June 1976, ran for four years at the Arts.
The theatre's lease was taken over by a consortium of UK and US producers in 2000 for a five-year period, and it was relaunched as a West End theatre with the anniversary production of Julian Mitchell's play Another Country , directed by Stephen Henry. Notable productions during this time included Closer to Heaven , the Jonathan Harvey/Pet Shop Boys musical, and The Vagina Monologues .
In 2011, the theatre was taken over by JJ Goodman and led by Artistic Director Mig Kimpton under the business management of Louis Hartshorn. The Arts now operates as the West End's smallest commercial receiving house, seating a maximum of 350 in a two-tier basement auditorium.
In 2014, Louis Hartshorn took over from Mig Kimpton as Executive Director and alongside long standing business partner Brian Hook as Producer. Expanding over an additional floor the Arts Theatre now houses two rehearsal rooms and a 60-capacity studio theatre 'Above the Arts'.
Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), engage in a variety of discussions and encounters while awaiting Godot, who never arrives. Waiting for Godot is Beckett's translation of his own original French-language play, En attendant Godot, and is subtitled "a tragicomedy in two acts". The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948 and 29 January 1949. The premiere, directed by Roger Blin, was on 5 January 1953 at the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris. The English-language version premiered in London in 1955. In a poll conducted by the British Royal National Theatre in 1998/99, it was voted the "most significant English language play of the 20th century".
Alastair George Bell Sim, CBE was a Scottish character actor who began his theatrical career at the age of thirty and quickly became established as a popular West End performer, remaining so until his death in 1976. Starting in 1935, he also appeared in more than fifty British films, including an iconic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol, released in 1951 as Scrooge in Great Britain and as A Christmas Carol in the United States. Though an accomplished dramatic actor, he is often remembered for his comically sinister performances.
Sir Peter Reginald Frederick Hall, CBE, was an English theatre, opera and film director. His obituary in The Times declared him "the most important figure in British theatre for half a century" and on his death, a Royal National Theatre statement declared that Hall's "influence on the artistic life of Britain in the 20th century was unparalleled".
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. Prokofiev reused music from the ballet in three suites for orchestra and a solo piano work.
Sir Donald Arthur Rolleston Albery was an English theatre impresario, who did much to translate the adventurous spirit of London in the 1960s onto the stage.
Alexander Sheriff de Moro "Alec" Clunes was an English actor and theatrical manager.
Margaret Rose Mount OBE was an English actress. As a child she found acting an escape from an unhappy home life. After playing in amateur productions, she was taken on by a repertory company and spent nine years in various British towns, learning her craft. In 1955 she got her big break in the comic play Sailor Beware!: she created the leading role in a repertory production and, though unknown to London audiences, was given the part when the play was presented in the West End. She became known for playing domineering middle-aged women in plays, films and television shows.
Ronald Crichton was a music critic for the Financial Times in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a scion of the Earls of Erne. In his Times obituary he was described as "one of the last of the school of those cultured mandarins who were able to write and talk about all matters concerning the arts."
Paul Frederick Daneman was an English film, television, and theatre actor. He was successful for more than 40 years on stage, film and television.
A Month in the Country is a play in five acts by Ivan Turgenev, his only well-known work for the theatre. Originally titled The Student, it was written in France between 1848 and 1850 and first published in 1855 as Two Women. The play was not staged until 1872, when it was given as A Month in the Country at a benefit performance for the Moscow actress Ekaterina Vasilyeva (1829–1877), who was keen to play the leading role of Natalya Petrovna.
John Peter Wearing is an Anglo-American theatre historian and professor, who has written numerous books and articles about nineteenth and twentieth-century drama and theatre, including The Shakespeare Diaries: A Fictional Autobiography, published in 2007. He has also written and edited well-received books on George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Wing Pinero, extensive reference series on the London theatre from 1890 to 1959, and theatrical biographies, among other subjects. As a professor of English literature, Wearing has specialised in Shakespeare and modern drama.
Nora Nicholson was an English actress. Known for her portrayal of character roles, she achieved her greatest success in the later years of her career. She played in classics by Shakespeare and Chekhov and in new plays by authors including Noël Coward and Alan Bennett. Many of her best-regarded performances were as eccentric or even unhinged characters.
Hilda Trevelyan was an English actress. Early in her career she became known for her performance in plays by J. M. Barrie, and is probably best remembered for creating the role of Wendy in Peter Pan.
Andrée Howard was a British ballet dancer and choreographer. She created over 30 ballets, of which almost nothing remains.
Sailor Beware! is a comic play by Philip King and Falkland Cary. After a repertory company production in Worthing in 1954, it opened in the West End of London on 16 February 1955 and ran for 1,231 performances.
George Laurier Lister, OBE was an English theatre writer, actor, director and producer, best known for a series of revues presented in London in the late 1940s and 1950s. He was later associated with Laurence Olivier in the West End and at the Chichester Festival. From 1964 to 1975 he was director and administrator of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.
Bessie Love (1898–1986) was an actress whose career began in silent films, and continued into sound films, radio, and television. She was also active in the theatre. Her early career was exclusively in American film; after she moved to England in 1935, she performed in productions made only in the U.K., and British productions made in Europe.
A Day by the Sea is a 1953 play by the British writer N. C. Hunter, first produced in 1953.
Robert Lankesheer was a stage, radio and television actor, best known for playing the character Leamington Sparr in the radio soap The Dales between 1963 and 1966 and Chamberlain in Doctor Who in 1965.
Who's Who in the Theatre is a British reference work, first published in 1912 with sixteen new editions from then until its last issue in 1981.
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