Harold Pinter Theatre
A recent name change to honour the late Harold Pinter has highlighted the importance of this venue in premiering new work by prolific writers such as Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and the eponymous author himself. The former Comedy Theatre enjoyed a major refurbishment in the 1950s but still displays the charm of a typical Victorian auditorium.
Modest in size, the theatre is split over four levels with varying degrees of visibility. Pillars are a feature on the lowest three levels, and the curve of the circle affects seats away from the centre. Boxes are built around the sides of the auditorium in keeping with the Victorian architecture.
The Stalls are deep and narrow although feel quite comfortable. There is no central aisle, but two pillars in the middle of the section create restrictions towards the rear. Seats in the first three rows can feel quite low, and so should be avoided by smaller audience members and children. Some seats in this section fall outside of the proscenium, meaning that they give a more side on view of the stage.
The Dress Circle is again restricted by pillars at row B which affects the view of those directly behind them. The section feels uncomfortable, as the rows follow the curve of the balcony, with most seats offering a side on view of the stage. The Upper Circle feels even more hostile, with even seats at the front of the section offering restrictions. Pillars between rows A and B are difficult to manage and the whole level feels cramped and restrcited. Audience members have to learn over to see the action, as a good third of the stage can become obstructed.
The Balcony is the highest level in the theatre and can feel out of the action. Better seats are towards the centre and away from the ends of each row.
The Harold Pinter Theatre is situated in the heart of London’s West End near Piccadilly Circus, where most of the capital’s most famous theatres can be found. As well as being in a convenient central location, the theatre is also surrounded by an overwhelming choice of restaurants, bars and hotels, meaning that you won’t have to go far to find a good meal before a show. Nearby attractions include the Ritz Hotel, Hyde Park and the Royal Academy, and both Leicester Square and Covent Garden are within walking distance of the theatre.
By Tube: The nearest station to the theatre is Piccadilly Circus on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines. The theatre is 5 minutes walk from the station.
By bus: Numbers 14, 19, 24, 29, 38 and 176 all stop near the theatre.
By taxi or car: The tourist-driven nature of the area means that hailing a cab on the street shouldn’t be difficult. The nearest car park is either the Leicester Square or Trafalgar MasterPark.
There are 4 levels in total at the Harold Pinter Theatre: the Stalls, Dress Circle, Royal Circle and Balcony. There are 2 steep steps up to the main foyer from the street level, although there is an alternative entrance on Oxenden Street with a ramp that leads to the back of the foyer and the Dress Circle. From the foyer there are 24 steps down to the Stalls, 23 steps up to the Royal Circle and 50 steps up to the Balcony, whereas there are no steps to reach the Dress Circle. Concessions are available for all disabled visitors and their companions.
There are 4 dedicated wheelchair spaces in the Dress Circle, with transfer seating available to aisle seats if preferred. The Stalls, Royal Circle and Balcony are not accessible with a wheelchair. There is no specific adapted toilet, but the one to the left of the auditorium has a ramp and 64cm-wide doorways. There are no steps to the Dress Circle bar, and drinks can be brought to patrons in their seats if required.
There is an induction loop at the Box Office and an infra-red system is fitted within the auditorium. Up to 2 guide dogs are allowed in the theatre per performance, although they are not permitted into the main auditorium. Front of house will dog-sit for the duration of the performance.Access bookings telephone line 020 7492 9930 or access booking form.
Recently renamed from its previous title of the Comedy Theatre, the Harold Pinter Theatre opened all the way back in 1881 and has preserved much of its architecture to this day. The current building has been Grade II-listed since 1972, and the theatre has enjoyed a varied selection of opera and original plays since its debut in the 19th century. The Harold Pinter Theatre has always been associated with breaking boundaries and associating with the experimental, dating back to its first productions of operettas and revue shows. The reputation of the theatre was established during the First World War when Charles Cochran and André Charlot brought their famous revues to the stage, and the theatre later pushed the envelope again by establishing the New Watergate Club in 1956. This initiative fought against censorship on the stage and led to performances of controversial subject matter including A View from the Bridge, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Tea and Sympathy at the theatre.
The famous Rocky Horror Show made its London debut at the theatre in 1979, and notable performers such as Michael Gambon, Ewan McGregor, Maureen Lipman, Kim Cattrall, Alan Bennett and Joseph Fiennes have all taken to the stage at some point in the theatre’s history. As its new name suggests, the work of Harold Pinter has been a consistent influence in the theatre’s development; renditions of his plays including The Homecoming, The Caretaker and The Betrayal have all seen major success at the theatre. Other significant plays by other writers include Donkey’s Years, Boeing-Boeing, Sunset Boulevard, Birdsong and The Children’s Hour. The current production is Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends, a quintessentially British comedy of manners.