LocationAs you might expect from the name, the Aldwych Theatre is situated on the large stretch of road known as the Aldwych. Curving along the bottom of the West End area and Covent Garden, the area is home to both the Aldwych and Novello Theatres as well as being within walking distance of several others, with the vibrant cobbled streets of Covent Garden just a stone’s throw away. The pillared and whitewashed buildings that line the street are actually from the early 20th century, but nonetheless give the district a certain grandeur that appeals to tourists and first-time visitors to London. The National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery can both be found at the west end of the Aldwych, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars along the road to suit all budgets. Pop into the impressive One Aldwych for killer cocktails in a refined environment before hitting the theatre.
Getting thereBy Tube: The nearest station to the theatre is Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line. From here the theatre is a 5-10 minute walk. Charing Cross mainline train station is also within walking distance, and can be accessed on the Northern or Bakerloo lines.By bus: Numbers 1, 4, 11, 13, 15, 68 and 98 all stop near the theatre.By car or taxi: There is a taxi rank outside nearby Charing Cross station, or you can try flagging a cab from the street. The nearest NCP car park is at Drury Lane/Parker Street, or there are meters outside the theatre.
SeatingThe Aldwych Theatre dates back to 1905, when it was originally designed as a twin theatre to the Novello Theatre, bookending the famous Aldwych. Today the theatre is home to successful musicals and plays, entertaining the large house. The hit musical Dirty Dancing first opened at the theatre, and has recently closed.
The theatre is built in similar style to the Novello, in a traditional Georgian design. Based on three levels, the lower stalls are build underground, with the Dress Circle at street level. The theatre is tall and narrow, and offers particularly good views from all levels.
The Stalls is divided into three sections by two half aisles on house right and house left. The front section provides the clearest view of the stage and is away from the overhang of the Dress Circle. Seats are level with the stage until row J where they become wider than the curve of the stage, offering slightly side on views towards the rear of the section. The overhang appears quite high and so not too much obstruction is present, even at the very back of the stalls. A gradual rake ensures views are generally excellent throughout.
The Dress Circle is situated on the first level, 15 steps up from the Foyer. The section exists as one block rather than being divided, and does not feel too high above the stage. The first two rows are particularly curved, giving a side on view of the stage, especially in Row A. Aim to sit around rows E and F for the clearest views.
The Upper Circle feels high above the theatre but again is relatively unobstructed. Three rows make up the front section, with a further 7 rows after a central aisle. At the rear of the section one can feel too far from the action, but overall the quality of the view is acceptable and not obstructed by rails or pillars.
AccessibilityThe Aldwych Theatre is made up of 3 levels: the Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. There are 6 steps from the street to the main foyer, although there is an alternative ramped entrance on Drury Lane that can be opened by theatre staff if required. There are 26 steps down from the foyer to the Stalls, 15 steps from the foyer to the back of the Dress Circle and more than 50 steps to reach the Grand Circle. There is no lift within the theatre. Discounts and concessions are available for disabled patrons and their carers for all performances.
Unfortunately the only level access in the auditorium is on the third row of the Dress Circle, where there are two spaces for wheelchair users. However transfer seating is available elsewhere in the Dress Circle. There is an adapted toilet that is accessible from the Dress Circle and does not require navigating any steps. All the bars within the theatre can only be reached by stair, but drinks can be brought to patrons in their seats.
There is an induction loop at the Box Office, and an infra-red system within the auditorium. Signed events and audio-described performances are scheduled for each production. Up to 6 guide dogs are allowed inside the auditorium during each performance.Access bookings telephone line 020 7492 9930 or access booking form
HistoryThe Grade II-listed Aldwych Theatre building was initially constructed as part of a pair, along with the Waldorf (now Novello) Theatre, to bookend the Waldorf Hotel in Aldwych. Since opening in 1905 the 1200-seater theatre has been the home of a wealth of West End productions, ranging from farce to Shakespeare and with a diverse range of shows in between. During the first 20 years of the theatre’s history, however, it was used for an eclectic selection of plays including the pantomime Bluebell in Fairyland and plays The Unknown, Le Sacre du Printemps and The Beauty of Bath.
It was not until 1925 that the Aldwych began to carve out a unique character for itself, with the introduction of Ben Travers’ Aldwych Farces. These light-hearted productions proved popular with the public and ran until 1933, with bizarre titles including Rookery Nook, Plunder and Thark bringing in the customers. After the Farces finished playing there was a period of around 30 years during which the theatre hosted plays by writers including Tennessee Williams, Daphne du Maurier and Christopher Fry. The star-studded 1949 production of A Streetcar Named Desire featured Vivien Leigh in the title role and was directed by her husband, Laurence Olivier.
Arguably the theatre’s golden era took place between 1960 and 1982, when the theatre was made the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. A series of successful and critically acclaimed plays were performed by a selection of the world’s finest actors and actresses, before the Company moved to the Barbican Theatre in 1982. Since then the Aldwych has witnessed notable productions by playwrights including Pinter and Stoppard, and today focuses on a more musical output punctuated by the occasional stage play. Whistle Down The Wind, Fame and Dirty Dancing have all enjoyed successful outings at the Aldwych since 2000. The Aldwych is currently home to Broadway sensation Beautiful The Carole King Musical.