Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Theatre Royal Drury Lane London

This beautiful theatre is one of only three Grade One listed theatres in London. First erected in 1663 by Thomas Killigrew under royal charter, Nell Gwynne made her stage debut here in 1665 and was subsequently discovered by her most famous lover, Charles II. The theatre was frequented by Samuel Pepys and was destroyed by fire in 1672. Undeterred, Thomas Killigrew designed the second incarnation of the theatre which opened its door to the public in 1674.

Charles Macklin is reported to have killed a fellow actor in the green room backstage of the theatre. His ghost is said to reside in the same spot where the actor was murdered - adding to the legend that Drury lane Theatre Royal is one of the most haunted theatres in the capital.

It is well known that actors have always assumed roles much younger than their actual age, yet the record must go to Thomas Betterton who played Hamlet well into his 70's.

The famous theatre manager David Garrick ran the theatre for 29 years in 1747 and introduced sweeping reforms, some of which are still widely held. Yet Drury Lane is so steeped in theatrical history that it is fitting his successor was one other than RB Sheridan who premiered his play School for Scandal at the theatre.

The old building was then demolished and replaced by Henry Holland's design - opened to great fanfare with music by Frederick Handel. Interestingly the building was equipped with the first safety curtain ever installed in a theatre - yet that burnt down a mere fifteen years later ruining Sheridan in the process. The final incarnation of this historic theatre and the one that we experience today was built in 1812 and was designed by the architect Benjamin Wyatt. When you walk around the front of house areas today they are pretty much the same as they were 200 years ago.

Drury Lane has witnessed many famous performers including Edmund Kean and Joseph Grimaldi and once boasted Lord Byron as Chairman of the Board. The theatre is one of the largest in the capital housing over 2,000 seats and as such was always employed as the site of many spectacular events including on-stage avalanches, sea battles, air balloons, train wrecks, chariot races and flying helicopters. It seems that big theatres need big set pieces.

Notable productions must include Noel Coward's 1931 production Cavalcade which involved a cast of four hundred actors (including a very junior Sir John Mills). The play took advantage of the hydraulic attributes of the theatre and ran for almost a year. The play followed three generations of the Marryott family from the Relief of Mafeking, through to the funeral of Queen Victoria and onto the onset of the First World War.

Impresarios like Ivor Novello have always been resident at Drury Lane, having many successes including Glamorous Night (1935) and Careless Rapture (1936).

When the Second World War began Drury Lane played host to ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association). During that time a bomb scored a direct hit upon the theatre and ruined a section of the auditorium.

The last major interior refurbishment was completed in 1922 leaving a four tiered theatre able to seat approximately 2,300. Since then many notable musicals have come and gone including many Oscar and Hammerstein productions such as Oklahoma in 1946 and South Pacific in 1951. My Fair Lady endured for over five years. Meanwhile Miss Saigon ran for ten years from 1989 – 1999.

Since then the theatre has hosted productions such as a musical version of Lord of the Rings, Mel Brooks infamous The Producers and Shrek the Musical. Currently Charlie and the Chocolate Factory joins a long list of productions to have graced the site since it first opened in 1663.

Travel Details

Theatre Royal Drury Lane is set in the heart of the tourist district called Covent Garden nearby the market and the Opera House. It's a great place to celebrate a special date, surrounded as it is by a myriad of bars and restaurants.


The Nearest NCP: Drury Lane. However parking is very limited and can be very expensive so we advise the use of public transport.

Public Transportatio

Covent Garden Tube Station: 3 minutes away
Holborn Tube Station: 6 minutes away
Temple Tube Station: 6 minutes away
Charing Cross Railway Station: 8 minutes away
Bus connections: 13, 243, 341, 6, 87, 9, N13, N155, N44, N87, N9

Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Catherine St, London, WC2B 5JF

Theatre Royal Drury Lane Seating Plan

Capacity: 2,300.

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