|Location|| Stratford, London, E15 |
|Coordinates||51°32′34″N0°00′03″E / 51.542730°N 0.000800°E Coordinates: 51°32′34″N0°00′03″E / 51.542730°N 0.000800°E|
|Owner||Pioneer Theatres Limited|
|Designation||Grade II* listed|
|Type||Non-profit producing theatre|
|Capacity||460 on three levels|
|Current use||Touring and own productions|
|Opened||17 December 1884|
|Renovated||1902: Frank Matcham, 1984, 2001|
|Architect||James George Buckle|
The Theatre Royal Stratford East is a 460 seat Victorian producing theatre in Stratford in the London Borough of Newham. Since 1953, it has been the home of the Theatre Workshop company, famously associated with director Joan Littlewood, whose statue is outside the theatre (see image at left).
The theatre was designed by architect James George Buckle, and commissioned by Charles Dillon, né Silver, adoptive son of the actor-manager Charles Dillon (died 1881) in 1884.  It is the architect's only surviving work, built on the site of a wheelwright's shop on Salway Road, close to the junction with Angel Lane.  It opened on 17 December 1884 with a revival of Richelieu by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Two years later, Dillon sold it to Albert O'Leary Fredericks, his sister's brother-in-law and one of the original backers of the scheme.
In 1887 the theatre was renamed Theatre Royal and Palace of Varieties and side extensions were added in 1887. The stage was enlarged in 1891, by the original architect. In 1902, Frank Matcham undertook minor improvements to the entrance and foyer.  The Theatre reverted to its Theatre Royal Stratford East ('TRSE') name in 1914. A fire on the stage on August Bank Holiday Monday of 1921 did considerable damage to the rear of the theatre. Thankfully the fire happened at midnight, with the safety curtain lowered, saving the auditorium which retains many of its original features to this day. The theatre was closed until January 1922. 
The Fredericks family continued to manage the theatre until 1932, although after the World War I, the theatre fell into financial difficulties, opening only irregularly after 1926.  The proscenium is surmounted by the letters "FF", commemorating the association with the Fredericks – possibly Frederick Fredericks, the husband of Dillon's sister, and a successful actor in his own right. Theatre superstition has it that should the letters ever be removed, the theatre will crumble. 
TRSE closed in 1938 and remained closed until 1943. Revues were then briefly tried, but failed, and again the theatre was closed until October 1946. Taken over by David Horne, it briefly became a successful playhouse including the legendary premiere of Patrick Hamilton's Gaslight , with Sybil Thorndike and Derek Bond – which ran for six months and was the theatre's first transfer to the West End.  The theatre closed again in December 1949.
In late 1950, a touring company presented the Christmas pantomime, Alice in Wonderland. Highly experimental, its success was by no means guaranteed or uniform throughout the tour. "They'll lynch us", recalls Sven Stahl. "I still have nightmares about Alice in Wonderland at Barnsley and the miners throwing pennies at John Blanshard."  The company were to return, as the Theatre Workshop in 1953, with artistic director Joan Littlewood and take over the theatre.
The theatre came under threat with the construction of the Stratford shopping centre in the 1970s, but was saved by a public campaign and protected in June 1972 by English Heritage with a Grade II* listing.  Money remained short, and the manager, Gerry Raffles, only managed redecoration and replacements as cash became available. In 2001, following a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid, all of the theatre's front of house and backstage areas were refurbished as part of the Olympiad's Stratford Cultural Quarter project. 
In 1990, TRSE scored a massive hit with the premiere of Five Guys Named Moe , which immediately transferred to the West End and won the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. The show has been produced all over the world, including Broadway, and continues to be revived regularly.  In 2004, TRSE made history by having the first British Black musical, The Big Life , transfer to London's West End, where it played at the Apollo Theatre.  In 2005, the theatre produced a musical version of the cult Jamaican film The Harder They Come – famous for its reggae soundtrack, which also transferred to the West End. This production was written by the film director Perry Henzel and was one of the most successful productions in the theatre's history. 
In 2018, Nadia Fall became artistic director.
The Theatre Royal became famous under the management of Gerry Raffles (1928–1975), who worked with director Joan Littlewood on such productions as A Taste of Honey and Oh, What a Lovely War! . In 1975, her collaborator and partner, Gerry Raffles died of diabetes, and in 1979, a devastated Joan Littlewood moved to France, never to direct again.  Notable names to get their break at TRSE include Richard Harris, Murray Melvin, Barbara Windsor, Victor Spinetti, Brian Murphy, Avis Bunnage, Harry H Corbett, Yootha Joyce, composer/lyricist Lionel Bart, and writer Shelagh Delaney.
Michael Caine was famously told by Littlewood: "P*ss off to Shaftesbury Avenue. You will only ever be a star.[ citation needed ] "
The playwright and director Ken Hill, a protégé of Joan Littlewood, took over as artistic director after she moved to France, prompted by the death of her partner, Gerry Raffles.  After his short tenure as artistic director, Hill continued to work with TRSE until his death, most notably in raucous musicals. They included The Invisible Man which transferred from TRSE to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End in 1993  and Zorro! The Musical which opened two weeks after Hill's death in 1995.  Notable productions by Ken Hill at the TRSE include On Your Way, Riley! by Alan Plater, Scrape Off the Black by Tunde Ikoli, and My Girl by Barrie Keeffe.
Maxwell Shaw, another member of the original Theatre Workshop, was a character actor on both stage and film, most notably in The Oblong Box and Start The Revolution Without Me.  He opened his tenure at the TRSE with his own adaptation of a Georges Feydeau farce Out of Practice. 
Clare Venables was artistic director from 1977 to 1979. She went on to run the Crucible Theatre Sheffield from 1981 to 1992, was a founding director of the Actors' Centre and a member of the Arts Council Drama panel. She was principal of the BRIT School of Performing Arts and Technology in Croydon from 1995 to 1999; and director of education of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1991 until her death in 2003. Notable Venables productions included Old King Cole, The Silver Tassie , The Funniest Man in the World, and Sisters.
Philip Hedley, who had worked as an assistant to Joan Littlewood for some years, took over the artistic directorship of the Theatre Royal from Clare Venables in 1979. He provided traditional entertainment in style of old music hall variety shows on Sunday evenings while seeking to engage with new Asian and Black audiences, as the local demographic changed. The theatre continued Littlewood's agenda to portray and express the experience of local people in East London.
In 1999, he began the Musical Theatre Initiatives scheme to encourage new writing in musical theatre. The final show he produced at Stratford East, The Big Life, was the first black British musical to go to the West End. In 2004, after 25 years as artistic director, he retired.
Kerry Michael joined Stratford East in 1997, as an associate director, becoming artistic director in September 2004. His manifesto is to bring London's new communities to the stage, and portray their experiences as second and third generation emigrants.  His debut play as artistic director was The Battle of Green Lanes by Cosh Omar, set amongst London's Cypriot society.  He directed the hit musicals The Harder They Come  (at Theatre Royal Stratford East and then transferred to The Barbican and the West End's Playhouse Theatre) and also Come Dancing by Ray Davies and Paul Sirett.  In 2007, Pied Piper won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, as did Cora Bissett's play Roadkill. in 2011.  The theatre was nominated again in 2014  with their production of Oh! What a Lovely War!, a revival of the Joan Littlewood classic. Michael also directed the annual pantomime and was again nominated for an Olivier Award for Cinderella.
In 2012 Stratford East, 'fast becoming one of the UK's most innovative and interactive theatres',  launched its Open Stage Project, enabling people to participate with everything from programming ideas to working on productions. 2014 productions at TRSE included David Baddiel's musical The Infidel, co-directed by Kerry Michael and David Baddiel.  The 2016 season included Hotel Cerise, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard by Bonnie Greer. 
In 2016 Kerry Michael expanded TRSE across the square to Gerry's, a new cafe and an 80-seater studio.  Kerry Michael stepped down as artistic director in 2017.
A director and playwright, Fall has worked extensively at the Royal National Theatre, directing shows including Chewing Gum Dreams, Our Country's Good and Home – which she also wrote.
Fall has also worked with London's Hampstead Theatre and Bush Theatre, where she directed Taylor Mac's Hir. 
Fall's first season (Sep 2018 – Jul 2019) opened with an adaptation of Lope de Vega's Fuenteovejuna by April De Angelis called The Village featuring Anya Chalotra and Art Malik. The season also included the UK premiere of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, Ballet Black, pantomime Sleeping Beauty, Frantic Assembly's The Unreturning by Anna Jordan, a revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus directed by Ned Bennett and co-produced with English Touring Theatre. The critically acclaimed production transferred to the West End in summer 2019 playing at Trafalgar Studios. Other shows included Pilot Theatre's touring show Noughts & Crosses (novel series) , an adaptation of Malorie Blackman's novel by Sabrina Mahfouz, August Wilson's play King Hedley II , directed by Fall and starring Lenny Henry, Cherrelle Skeete, Leo Wringer, Martina Laird, Dexter Flanders and Aaron Pierre as Hedley. The season ended with a co-production with English National Opera for Benjamin Britten's community opera Noye's Fludde directed by Lyndsey Turner and featured different community groups and schools across Newham and East London.
Equus won three Off-West End Awards in 2020, including Best Production, Best Director (Ned Bennett) and Best Lighting Design (Jessica Hung Han Yun). 
Fall's second season (Sep 2019 – Jul 2020) opened with Katori Hall's Our Lady of Kibeho and included the return of Ballet Black, pantomime Dick Whittington, Eclipse Theatre's new play The Gift by Janice Okoh and Frantic Assembly's 25th anniversary play I Think We Are Alone by Sally Abbott and co-directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham. The rest of the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included a new verbatim play by Nadia Fall Welcome To Iran in co-production with the National Theatre, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist by Bryony Lavery for Ramps on the Moon and a revival of Roy Williams' seminal play Sucker Punch , directed by Roy Alexander Weise.
The productions Noye's Fludde and Our Lady of Kibeho were nominated for Olivier Awards,  winning Outstanding Achievement in Opera for The Children's Ensemble in Noye's Fludde. 
Joan Maud Littlewood was an English theatre director who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and is best known for her work in developing the Theatre Workshop. She has been called "The Mother of Modern Theatre". Her production of Oh, What a Lovely War! in 1963 was one of her more influential pieces.
The Royal National Theatre in London, commonly known as the National Theatre (NT), is one of the United Kingdom's three most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House. Internationally, it is known as the National Theatre of Great Britain.
Sir Trevor Robert Nunn is a British theatre director. He has been the Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and, currently, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He has directed dramas for the stage, like Macbeth, as well as opera and musicals, such as Cats (1981) and Les Misérables (1985).
Theatre Workshop is a theatre group whose long-serving director was Joan Littlewood. Many actors of the 1950s and 1960s received their training and first exposure with the company, many of its productions were transferred to theatres in the West End, and some, such as Oh, What a Lovely War! and A Taste of Honey, were made into films.
Oh, What a Lovely War! is an epic musical developed by Joan Littlewood and her ensemble at the Theatre Workshop in 1963. It is a satire on World War I, and by extension on war in general. The title is derived from the "somewhat satirical" music hall song "Oh! It's a Lovely War!", which is one of the major numbers in the production.
Roger Rees was a Welsh actor and director, widely known for his stage work. He won an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for his performance as the lead in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. He also received Obie Awards for his role in The End of the Day and as co-director of Peter and the Starcatcher. Rees was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in November 2015.
The Aldwych Theatre is a West End theatre, located in Aldwych in the City of Westminster, central London. It was listed Grade II on 20 July 1971. Its seating capacity is 1,200 on three levels.
Ken Hill was an English playwright and theatre director.
Matthew Warchus is a British theatre director, filmmaker, lyricist, and playwright. He has been the Artistic Director of London's The Old Vic since September 2015.
Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'be is a 1960 West End musical comedy about Cockney low-life characters in the 1950s, including spivs, prostitutes, teddy-boys and corrupt policemen. The work is more of a play with music than a conventional musical. The original play, by Frank Norman, who though born in Bristol lived his adult life in London, was intended to be a straight theatrical piece, but was supplemented with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, who also grew up in London's East End.
Chichester Festival Theatre is a theatre and Grade II* listed building situated in Oaklands Park in the city of Chichester, West Sussex, England. Designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, it was opened by its founder Leslie Evershed-Martin in 1962. The smaller and more intimate Minerva Theatre was built nearby in 1989.
Sparrows Can't Sing is a 1963 British kitchen sink comedy film. Based on a 1960 play, Sparrers Can't Sing, it was directed by Joan Littlewood and was from a story by Stephen Lewis. The producer was Donald Taylor and the original music by James Stevens, incidental music was composed by Stanley Black. The play, also by Stephen Lewis, was first performed at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in the Theatre Royal Stratford East.
Michael Howell Blakemore OBE, AO is an Australian actor, writer and theatre director who has also made a handful of films. A former Associate Director of the National Theatre, in 2000 he became the only individual to win Tony Awards for best Director of a Play and Musical in the same year for Copenhagen and Kiss Me, Kate.
Murray Melvin is an English actor. He is best known for his acting work with Joan Littlewood, Ken Russell and Stanley Kubrick. He is the author of two books: The Art of Theatre Workshop (2006) and The Theatre Royal, A History of the Building (2009).
John Newport Caird is an English stage director and writer of plays, musicals and operas. He is an honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, was for many years a regular director with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and is the principal guest director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm (Dramaten).
Josie Rourke is an English theatre and film director. She is a Vice-President of the London Library and was the artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse theatre from 2012 to 2019. In 2018, she made her feature film debut with the Academy Award and BAFTA-nominated historical drama Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.
Daniel Gwyn Evans is a Welsh actor and director.
Gregory Doran is an English director known for his Shakespearean work. The Sunday Times called him 'one of the great Shakespearians of his generation'.
Marianne Phoebe Elliott is a British theatre director and producer who works on the West End and Broadway. She has received numerous accolades including three Laurence Olivier Awards and four Tony Awards.
Miss Littlewood is a stage musical with music, lyrics and book by Sam Kenyon.