Harold Pinter Theatre

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Harold Pinter Theatre
Comedy Theatre, Royal Comedy Theatre
Harold Pinter Theatre in July 2007
Address Panton Street, London SW1Y 4DN
Westminster, London
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Owner Ambassador Theatre Group
Designation Grade II listed
Type West End theatre
Capacity 796 on 4 levels
(1,180 on opening)
Production Sunny Afternoon
Opened 15 October 1881
Architect Thomas Verity

The Harold Pinter Theatre, formerly the Comedy Theatre until 2011,[1] is a West End theatre, and opened on Panton Street in the City of Westminster, on 15 October 1881, as the Royal Comedy Theatre. It was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months in painted (stucco) stone and brick.[2] By 1884 it was known as just the Comedy Theatre. In the mid-1950s the theatre underwent major reconstruction and re-opened in December 1955; the auditorium remains essentially that of 1881, with three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies.[2]


In 1883, the successful operetta Falka had its London première at the theatre, and in 1885, Erminie did the same. The theatre's reputation grew through the First World War when Charles Blake Cochran and André Charlot presented their famous revue shows. Famous actors who appeared here include Henry Daniell who played John Carlton in Secrets in September 1929.

The theatre was notable for the role it played in overturning stage censorship by establishing the New Watergate Club in 1956, under producer Anthony Field.[3] The Theatres Act 1843 was still in force and required scripts to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. Formation of the club allowed plays that had been banned due to language or subject matter to be performed under "club" conditions.

Plays produced in this way included the UK premières of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy and Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.[4] The law was not revoked until 1968, but in the late 1950s there was a loosening of conditions in theatre censorship, the club was dissolved and Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise premièred to a public audience.[5]

The theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in June 1972.


On 7 September 2011 it was announced that the theatre's owner, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) would be renaming the Comedy Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre from Thursday 13 October 2011.[6]

Howard Panter, Joint Chief Executive and Creative Director of ATG, told the BBC: "The work of Pinter has become an integral part of the history of the Comedy Theatre. The renaming of one of our most successful West End theatres is a fitting tribute to a man who made such a mark on British theatre and who, over his 50-year career, became recognised as one of the most influential modern British dramatists."[1]

Recent and present productions


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Harold Pinter has London theatre named after him", BBC News, 7 September 2011, accessed 8 September 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 English Heritage listing details accessed 28 Apr 2007.
  3. Interview with Anthony Field CBE 14 March, 2007(The Theatre Archive Project, British Library) accessed 16 Oct 2007.
  4. Paul Ibell. Theatreland: A Journey Through the Heart of London's Theatre. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009: p. 205
  5. The Harold Pinter Theatre history accessed 8 September 2011.
  6. [1], Official London Theatre, 7 September 2011, accessed 8 September 2011.
  7. Official Comedy Theatre website."Ambassador Theatre Group's AmbassadorTickets.com", accessed 24 June 2011.
  8. Official theatre website."www.haroldpintertheatre.co.uk", accessed 8 September 2011.
  • Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 104–5 (Theatres' Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
  • Who's Who in the Theatre, edited by John Parker, tenth edition, revised, London, 1947, pps: 477–478.

External links