March 13, 2023

Memories of the ‘Lane’

The oldest theatre still in use in London is the  Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which first opened its doors in 1663. It was where Nell Gwynne sold her oranges and caught the eye of King Charles II. The theatre burnt to the ground in 1809 and famously the owner , the playwright Richard Sheridan, watched the event and said, “A man may surely be able to take a glass of wine by his own fireside”.

The present building, which is the fourth on the site, was opened in 1812 and has two royal boxes. King George II had a falling out with his son the Prince of Wales and supposedly they kept out of each other’s way at the theatre by having boxes on either side of the stage. So, the theatre is the only one with two royal boxes and if you visit there today you can still see the fleur-de-lys of the Prince of Walers on one side and the royal coat of arms with its lion and unicorn on the other. There is also rumoured to be a ghost.

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The ‘Lane has a long theatrical tradition with spectacles, melodramas and more recently long running musicals including. Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, 42nd Street and Miss Saigon. The theatre is currently home to the musical Frozen.

We have performed there 25 times, so we know it well. Although it has over 2000 seats it feels close to the audience when you are on the stage. It’s that special kind of feeling that a  performer gets like that at the Royal Albert Hall. The distance from the front of the stage to the back wall is enormous and the stage has quite a strong slope down towards the audience.

Our first production there was in 1997 with our Beatles-story-show The Long and Winding Road. The helicopter pad used in Miss Saigon was centre stage and we were joined on stage by some celebrities of the day including (now Dame) Floella Benjamin who was in the royal box. At one point one of our performers dressed up as the late queen and joined her in the royal box  to re-enact the Royal Variety Show. We had a celeb from Eastenders, and such was his then fame, that all the doors had to guarded from adoring fans who were trying to enter.

In 2019 the owner, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, began a £60 million refurbishment restoring the theatre to its 1812 glory. It is a beautiful and famous old London landmark and one day we hope to perform there again.

Theatretrain, a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 4-18, specialises in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage, and resilience. If you know a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit to find out what our performing arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.

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