The Peacock theatre has had many names over the years, more recently it was The Royalty theatre before being renamed as The Peacock theatre.
The 999 capacity theatre is owned by, and comprises part of the London School of Economics and Political Science campus, who utilise the theatre for lectures, public talks, conferences, political speeches and open days. The university has a long lease with London’s principal centre for contemporary dance, Sadler’s Wells, with whom it has negotiated a deal to bring in dance companies under the banner ‘Sadler’s Wells in the West End’. The venue often plays host to dance performances, conferences, ballet, pop concerts and award ceremonies.
A theatre has stood on the site since the 17th century. It was originally known as Gibbon’s Tennis Court or the Vere Street Theatre, where a Mrs Hughes became the first woman to tread the boards of a London theatre in December 1660, in a performance of Othello. The company left the theatre in 1663 and the building was finally destroyed by fire in 1809.
At the beginning of the 20th century New York-based theatre impresario Oscar Hammerstein I (the grandfather of Oscar Hammerstein II) had a new theatre built on the site. The theatre opened in November 1911 as the London Opera House, with a capacity of 2,660. As an opera house, it found it difficult to attract audiences and from 1914–15 the theatre changed it’s name to the National Theatre of England.
The theatre was purchased by Oswald Stoll in 1916 and renamed the Stoll Theatre and, for a time, as the Stoll Picture Theatre, housing cine variety until the 1950s. Rose Marie played at the Stoll Theatre in 1942, followed by Kismet and Stars on Ice in 1947. The London transfer of a version of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess that restored it to an operatic form, took place in October 1952. Joan of Arc at the Stake was produced in 1954, starring Ingrid Bergman. The theatre closed in 1957, and was demolished for the construction of an office block.
The present, smaller theatre was built in 1960 as The Royalty Theatre in 1960. It was the first West End theatre to be built since the Saville Theatre in 1931. Equipped to screen cinema, the film Ben Hur played at the venue in 1961 followed by Mutiny on the Bounty.
In 1966, the theatre returned to live theatre. However, the Royalty Theatre’s only successes were a run of the hit Oh! Calcutta! and the show Bubbling Brown Sugar in the late 1970s. Paul Raymond’s revues were staged at the theatre through the 70’s. It was also the venue for the first and last concerts on what turned out to be the final tour of the English folk-rock singer Sandy Denny with her band in November 1977, and the venue features on the 1998 posthumous release Gold Dust which was produced over 20 years later from the original tapes.
Drag shows failed to find an audience and the theatre became used as a TV studio for This is Your Life.
The theatre was renamed The Island theatre, albeit briefly, as the auditorium and front of house was transformed into a Caribbean paradise for the ill-fated show, Once On This Island.
The venue was later bought by the London School of Economics and renamed the Peacock Theatre.
Sadler’s Wells acquired the lease in 1996 and the Peacock Theatre became a dance venue for the company. The Rat Pack played at the theatre in 2002, and Doldrum Bay premièred in 2003.
The Peacock theatre continues to be shared between the London School of Economics who use it during the day and Sadler’s Wells who stage shows in the evenings.
Peacock theatre tickets in London:
To make a booking or to find ticket prices for The Merchants of Bollywood at the Peacock Theatre, London, you can select your ticket preferences at the top of this page.
- Cirque Eloize iD (20 Sept – 8 Oct 2016), please click here
- Peking Opera: The Legend Of The White Snake (14 – 15 October 2016), please click here
- Peking Opera: The General & Prime Minister (13 – 15 October 2016), please click here
- Burn the Floor – Fire in the Ballroom (18 Oct – 5 Nov 2016), please click here
- Snowman (23 Nov 2016 – 1 Jan 2017), please click here
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