30 West End Theatre Facts

By Alex Kingston

Monday 5th August 2019

London’s West End is a striking place and is full of astounding history. In this article, join me as I explore 30 interesting facts of London theatre.

  1. Astonishingly, it is in fact possible to fit the entirety of the Fortune Theatre (currently home to ‘The Woman in Black’) on to the stage of the Dominion Theatre.

  2. Each and every year, excellence within West End theatre is recognised at the annual Olivier Awards. The show with the most awards is ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’, which racked up a grand total of nine awards in 2017 .

  3. The largest West End theatre is the Apollo Victoria Theatre (currently home to ‘Wicked’). This theatre can seat a grand total of 2,384 theatregoers.

  4. The Garrick Theatre (currently home to ‘Bitter Wheat’) was opened in 1889, but only after a nightmarish construction process. Whilst building the theatre, an underground river was discovered during the excavation for the building’s foundations.

  5. For the long-running musical ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, it takes a total of 2 hours to apply the Phantom’s make-up before each show. If this wasn’t bad enough, it then takes 30 minutes to remove the make-up after the show.

  6. A number of venues, such the Palace Theatre (currently home to ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’) and Her Majesty’s Theatre (currently home to ‘The Phantom of the Opera’) were built either in their entirety, or partly, around 150-200 years ago.

  7. The hit comedy ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ was written within an extraordinary short space of time; only 4 weeks. After it was written, the actors rehearsed for an additional 4 weeks.

  8. The term, West End, is often defined as being the area that lies between Oxford Street to the north, The Strand to the south, Regent Street to the west and Kingsway to the east. Despite this, there are a number of West End theatre venues that lie outside of these limits.

  9. Beloved West End actor Brian Blessed has boxed with the Dalai Lama, survived a plane crash, delivered a baby in Richmond Park and remains the oldest man to have trekked the harsh climates of the North Pole.

  10. The Dominion Theatre was built on land that was formerly the site of the Horse Shoe Brewery, which is where the Beer Flood of 1814 occurred and killed 8 people.

  11. The Ambassador Theatre Group are the leading players of London’s West End. They have ten of London’s West End theatres to their name, which is more than any other organisation.

  12. The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in London’s West End, having first opened on the 25th of November in 1952. It has had almost 30,000 performances.

  13. It is thought to be bad luck to say ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre, due to many tales of actors uttering the name and then being knocked over by falling scenery or being stabbed accidentally with real daggers.

  14. In 1800, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, an assassination attempt was made on the life of King George II. There were no causalities, however, as both shots missed the King.

  15. The Mischief Theatre Trio who wrote ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ all went to school together at LAMDA. It was here they developed an undying friendship with one another thanks to common interests.

  16. ‘The Woman in Black’ only features two cast members, and there is actually a reason as to why. When the play was first written in 1987, the theatre that the playwright was writing for could only afford a maximum of four actors.

  17. When ‘Les Misérables’ first opened in October 1985, it was panned by critics. Despite this, it went on to become the West End’s longest running musical, and only recently closed on the 13th of July.

  18. When ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ first opened in 1986, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was so nervous to see how people would react that he had to leave the theatre half-way through opening night.

  19. Mamma Mia’, featuring the music of ABBA is the most successful West End jukebox musical, to the extent that approximately 1 in 10 people throughout all of the UK have seen it.

  20. Within the musical ‘The Lion King’, a total of five different languages are spoken. These include Swahili and Zulu.

  21. In the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz story by L. Frank Baum, the Witch was not given a name. The author of ‘Wicked’ then named the Witch Elphaba, as a play on words from his initials ‘LFB’.

  22. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is said to be haunted by the ghost of Charles Macklin, the former West End actor. Rumour has it that this is a tall and thin ghost with a nasty temper.

  23. The gross revenue of London theatre came to a total of £765,800,051 in 2018. This was up 8.6% in comparison to the gross revenue in 2017.

  24. In the London stage musical of ‘The Lion King’, over 232 puppets are used. These include rod puppets, shadow puppets, as well as full-sized puppets.

  25. The Savoy Theatre (currently home to ‘9 to 5’) opened in 1881 and was the first public building to be lit entirely by electricity.

  26. It took a grand total of 37,000 hours to build the jaw-dropping puppets and intricate masks featured in ‘The Lion King’.

  27. The Savoy Theatre is adjacent to luxury hotel The Savoy Hotel. As a consequence of this, the stage of the theatre is directly located beneath a swimming pool.

  28. In 2018, a grand total of 15,548,154 people attended West End Theatre. This was up 3% compared to the amount of theatre attendees in 2017.

  29. West End theatre actors are, on average, paid between £518 and £633 a week. This number often depends on the number of seats within the venue.

  30. The Palace Theatre is said to have been haunted by the ghost an unknown ballerina. It is also said that the ghost of composer Ivor Novello watches shows from the dress circle.