LocationThe Duchess Theatre can be found on Catherine Street, one of the many side streets branching off the main Covent Garden area and close to the famous Drury Lane. The district is in the middle of the West End and is consequently geared towards tourists, with a multitude of bars, restaurants and cafés in the immediate vicinity. Covent Garden is a short walk away and contains plenty of eateries and a market, and other notable attractions in the area include the English National Opera, London Transport Museum and several other major theatres.
Getting thereBy Tube: The nearest station is Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line, a 250m walk from the theatre.By bus: Numbers 1, 4, 6, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 59, 68, 76, 77A, 91, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243 and 341 all stop close to the theatre.By taxi or car: There is a taxi rank outside the nearby Charing Cross station. The nearest car park is the NCP on Drury Lane.
SeatingThe Duchess is one of London's most intimate venues and usually plays host to smaller musicals and plays. With just over 470 seats divided across two levels, the theatre can be a little bit too small for some shows, although seating wise it is particularly problem free.
The Stalls is the largest seating section, accessible 21 seats down from street level. There is a half aisle running down the centre of the block dividing the rear stalls, which fan out from the stage getting wider and following the curve of the stage. Best seats avoid the Circle overhang and are towards the middle of the section, within the boundaries of the proscenium.
The Circle is divided into two sections by a large walled aisle than can create obstructions. The first three rows offer the best value for money and views of the stage, as rows D-H can feel a little set back from the action, despite the size of the theatre. Overall the section is generally unobstructed and offers good value for money.
AccessibilityThe Duchess Theatre is made up of two levels, the Stalls and the Circle. Entrance to the main foyer is via one shallow step at street level; there is no alternative entrance, but staff are happy to assist guests at the main entrance. From the foyer there are 21 steps down to the Stalls and 12 steps up to the Dress Circle, in which there are 3 steep steps between each row. There are no lifts within the venue. Concessions are available on tickets for disabled users and their carers.
The theatre is sadly not very well adapted for wheelchair users, with no accessibility in any area other than the main foyer. Transfer seating is available only, with scooters being stored in the Box Office and wheelchairs in the store room. The bar cannot be accessed without using the stairs, but drinks can be brought to patrons in their seats. There is an adapted toilet on the Stalls level.
An induction loop is available at the Box Office, and an infra-red system is fitted within the main auditorium. A maximum of 2 guide dogs are allowed in the theatre at any one time and are welcome to go into the auditorium, although dogs can also be looked after by the management if preferred.Access bookings telephone line +44 (0) 330 333 4815 or access booking form
HistoryThe Duchess Theatre was designed by architect Ewen Barr and opened in 1929, and is currently one of the smallest theatres in the West End with just 479 seats across two levels. The theatre is somewhat unique in that the stalls are built below street level due to the size of the theatre site, and it is a very intimate performance space where all audience members can see the stage clearly regardless of their specific seat. The slight disadvantage of this for the theatre is that the basement level often floods and requires water to be constantly pumped out of it! Upon opening the theatre’s debut production was a play called Tunnel Trench by Hubert Griffith.
The Duchess has hosted several notable plays during its history, such as Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which ran for an incredible 1997 performances following its transfer to the theatre in 1942. The stage version of Alfie played at the theatre in 1962, where it was seen by the screenwriter Lewis Gilbert who would turn it into the iconic film. Oh Calcutta enjoyed a six-year run at the theatre from 1974, and the Duchess later had success with a Victorian music hall programme and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s A Herbal Bed.
In more recent times the theatre has been the home of a variety of plays and musicals, such as the musical Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story in 2007 and plays including Endgame, Ghosts, Morecambe, Plague Over England, Butley and The Pitmen Painters. 2012 saw productions of Written on the Heart, The Hurly Burly Show and Our Boys. Recent productions of note include Alan Bennett's Untold Stories, Fences starring Lenny Henry and a revival of Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Currently the theatre is home to The Play That Goes Wrong.