Arts Theatre

The Arts Theatre is a theatre in Great Newport Street, in Westminster, Central London.

Arts Theatre
Arts Theatre in July 2016
AddressGreat Newport Street
London, WC2
United Kingdom
Coordinates51.511944°N 0.1275°W / 51.511944; -0.1275
Public transit Leicester Square
OwnerConsolidated Development[1]
OperatorJJ Goodman Ltd.
TypeWest End theatre
ProductionSix the Musical
Opened5 June 1913 (1913-06-05)
ArchitectP. Morley Holder


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 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.[2]

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.[3] This was an important turning point in modern theatre for Britain. Subsequently, from 1956 to 1959, Hall ran the Arts Theatre.

According to Who's Who in the Theatre (14th and 15th editions), 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 who took over the lease. 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.[4]

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'.


  • South[5][6][7] – 1955
  • The Children's Hour[8] – 1955
  • In White America[9][10] – 1964
  • Elegies – 7–14 November 2004
  • A Guide to Sexual Misery – Jan to Apr 2011
  • Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie – Jan to Apr 2011
  • Eve Ferret Sings – Mar 2011
  • David Wood's Storytime – April 2011
  • Face to Face at the Arts (series) (with Stephen Mangan) – May 2011
  • Bette and Joan – May to Jun 2011
  • Eve Ferret Sings Again – Jun 2011
  • Seussical (with Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens) – Dec 2012
  • The Tailor Made Man (with Faye Tozer, Mike McShane and Dylan Turner) – Feb to Apr 2013
  • Seussical (with Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens) – Nov 2013
  • Ghost Stories – February 2014 to March 2015
  • Bad Jews March to June 2015
  • Annie JR August 2015
  • USHERS: The Front of House Musical October to November 2015
  • The Blues Brothers: Xmas Special November 2015 to January 2016
  • All That Fall – April to May 2016
  • A View from Islington North – May to July 2016
  • American Idiot July to November 2015, July to September 2016
  • Murder Ballad – September to December 2016
  • A Christmas Carol with Simon Callow – December 2016 to January 2018
  • Toyer
  • Saturday Night
  • Shout!
  • The Show Girls
  • F**king Men
  • Hotel Follies
  • Catwalk Confidential
  • Cymbeline
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Daisy Pulls It Off
  • Nunsense A-Men
  • Naked Boys Singing
  • A Man of No Importance
  • Party
  • Oddsocks Present Romeo and Juliet
  • Shirley Jones
  • Wet Weather Cover
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
  • Lillies on the Land
  • The Music of the Blues Brothers – A Tribute
  • Park Avenue Cat
  • Milked
  • SIX
  • Oh My Goddess!
  • The Female Edit
  • The Wipers Times
  • The Toxic Avenger


  1. Prynn, Jonathan (17 April 2008). "Soho street to be turned into a hotel". Evening Standard.
  2. "Peter Elstob". 30 July 2002.
  3. Hall, Peter (24 August 2005). "Godot almighty". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 4 December 2007.
  4. New Management for London's Arts Theatre
  5. Gaye 1967, p. 93
  6. Atkinson, Brooks (2 May 1955). "Theatre: South Abroad: Green's Play of Civil War Seen in London". The New York Times.
  7. Wearing 2014, p. 364
  8. Wearing 2014, pp. 453–454
  9. Gaye 1967, p. 203
  10. Hope-Wallace, Philip (17 November 1964). "Review: In White America". The Guardian.
  • Earl, John; Sell, Michael (2000). Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950. Theatres Trust. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-7136-5688-3.
  • Gaye, Freda, ed. (1967). Who's Who in the Theatre: A Biographical Record of the Contemporary Stage (14th ed.). New York, NY: Pitman Publishing Corporation. OCLC 1036920599.
  • Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. (1983). The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. Oxford. ISBN 0-19-211546-4.
  • Herbert, Ian, ed. (1981). Who's Who in the Theatre (Vols. 1 and 2) (17th ed.). Gale. ISBN 0-8103-0234-9.
  • Marshall, Norman (1947). The Other Theatre. London: John Lehmann.
  • Trewin, J.C.; Trewin, Wendy (1986). The Arts Theatre, London, 1927–1981. ISBN 0-85430-041-4.
  • Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1950–1959: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8108-9307-8.
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