Now showing at the Arts Theatre
Arts Theatre history
From the outside
The Arts Theatre is a solid, attractive red brick building with beautiful arched windows and a period façade that’s older than the theatre itself. Huge pilasters join the second and third floors from the outside and inside there’s a plain rectangular auditorium. Because the design cleverly maximises the seating by using three sides and arranging it over two levels, this small theatre feels much bigger than it actually is.
Arts Theatre architecture and history
The Arts Theatre Club was founded in 1927. Leasing the current building from the Salisbury Estate, they created a cosy yet surprisingly spacious bespoke theatre in the basement, designed by P Morley Horder and costing a princely eighteen and a half thousand pounds.
When it first opened, the Arts Theatre was dedicated to avoiding what they saw as over-enthusiastic censorship, producing un-licensed experimental plays for subscriber-only audiences. But in fact some of its productions were so good that they transferred to commercial theatres and went on to be a roaring success, including the famous 1932 production Richard of Bordeaux by Gordon Daviot.
The auditorium was renovated and spruced up in 1934 by Basil Ionides but seriously damaged by fire in 1951, after which it was re-built almost immediately.
From 1942 to ’52 Alec Clunes produced more than a hundred plays, giving the Arts Theatre national status and winning it the nick-name ‘The National Pocket Theatre’. Sir Peter Hall took the reins next, at aged 24. From 1967 to ‘99 the theatre was home to Caryl Jenner’s The Unicorn children's theatre during the day, while business continued as usual in the evenings.
The next twenty years and counting has seen the Arts Theatre staging an impressive variety of innovative and mainstream hits, creating a name for quality, innovation, eccentricity and fun.
In 2000 a consortium of producers took over the lease for five years, re-launching with Julian Mitchell's fabulous play, Another Country. In 2011, the theatre was taken over by J J Goodman and these days the Arts Theatre is the West End’s smallest independent commercial theatre. These days they present productions running between four and twelve weeks, in seasons, and also host exciting one-off cabarets, showcases and comedies.
Past shows at the Arts Theatre
Peter Hall staged the English premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre in 1955. Tom Stoppard's Dirty Linen and Newfoundland played there from ’76 to 1980. The Vagina Monologues and Closer to Heaven were also huge hits at The Arts. More recently the Face to Face Series, Naked Boys Singing and Park Avenue Cat have graced the small but perfectly formed Arts Theatre stage.
Arts Theatre access
The theatre is fully wheelchair accessible, with Guide and hearing dogs welcome in the auditorium.
Arts Theatre tickets
We’re a popular destination for a wide variety of seat types and prices, with excellent availability on the full range of Arts Theatre tickets.
6-7 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB
- Disabled toilets
- Wheelchair/scooter access
- Capacity: 350
- Year built: 1927