Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HH
LocationThe Fortune Theatre enjoys a central position in the heart of London’s Theatreland, close to Covent Garden and the Aldwych and with a multitude of other theatres within close proximity. The area epitomises theatrical glamour, packed as it is with swish bars, cheap and friendly restaurants and both high street and designer shops. The main Covent Garden square is a short walk from the theatre should you want to enjoy some street performance or look around the market, and other nearby attractions include the Royal Opera House and the London Transport Museum.
Getting thereBy Tube: There are several stations within walking distance of the Fortune Theatre, but the nearest is Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line. If you want to avoid the crowds at peak times, try Holborn instead on the Central or Piccadilly lines, a 10 minute walk from the theatre.By bus: Numbers 24, 29 and 176 all stop close to the theatre.By taxi or car: It shouldn’t be difficult to hail a cab on the street, but there is a designated taxi rank outside Charing Cross train station. The nearest NCP car park is on Drury Lane.
SeatingThe Fortune was the first London theatre to be built after the First World War and is moderate in size compared to other theatres in the West End. With only 440 seats the venue suits the intimate setting of its long running tenant. There is little space inside the theatre, with no grand foyer or spacious bar area. Instead the auditorium greets visitors almost as soon as they step through the doors.
The Stalls feel very intimate in this shallow auditorium. The seats are divided into two unequal sections, leaving a small narrow block House Right. The stage is very high and the seats are not well raked, meaning that it can feel uncomfortable watching the action from the rear of the Stalls. The overhang of the Dress Circle comes into view from the back sections, although doesn't restrict much of the action.
The Dress Circle, one level above is similarly shallow with an off centre aisle running the length of the section. Seats at this level are somewhat restricted by a gentle curve as each row follows the balcony. The Upper Circle can feel quite detached from the action, especially in this atmospheric show. Although none of the action is missed, and the rake allows good views over the heads of other audience members, to get the full experience try and sit closer to the stage.
AccessibilityThe Fortune Theatre is split across three levels: the Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle. There is level access from the street into the foyer via the main entrance, although there is also an alternative entrance from Crown Court that takes guests directly to Box A, the most accessible point in the theatre. Once inside the main foyer, there are 7 steps to the Dress Circle, 21 steps down to the Stalls and more than 40 steps up to the Upper Circle. However, if you use the alternative entrance it is 5 steps to the Dress Circle. Concessions are available for all disabled visitors and their carers.
Wheelchair users cannot sit in the Stalls or Upper Circle, as the Dress Circle requires the least steps. There are no designated wheelchair spaces available, and users must transfer instead. There is also a lack of an adapted toilet on site, and the standard toilets have fairly narrow cubicles. There are steps to all three of the theatre’s bars, although drinks can be brought to disabled patrons in their seats.
An induction loop and infra-red system are fitted within the main auditorium, and there are also signed events, audio-described tours and touch tours upon occasion. Up to 2 guide dogs at a time are welcome in the theatre, although they are only permitted to stay with their owner during the show if they are sitting in Box A. The management are happy to look after dogs during the performance if required.Access bookings telephone line +44 (0) 800 912 6971 or access booking form
HistoryThe intimate Fortune Theatre is one of the smallest in the West End, with just 432 seats in total in its main auditorium. Originally opened in 1924 as the Fortune Thriller Theatre, the theatre was the first to be built in the West End following the damage caused by the First World War. It has something of an interesting background, being constructed on the site of an old public tavern and sharing a corridor with the neighbouring Scottish National Church, which makes the theatre’s debut show Sinners slightly ironic! Today it is a Grade II-listed building, and the oldest remaining public building in London to be built entirely out of concrete.
Following a run of moderately successful plays in its flowering years, the Fortune Theatre was used to host performances by ENSA during the Second World War, an organisation that used entertainers from the armed forces. In the years following it became a receiving house venue, showcasing touring productions rather than commanding its own; in this capacity the theatre hosted the Flanders and Swan revue for 733 performances from 1957 and the Beyond the Fringe revue from 1961, featuring legendary comedians and performers such as Alan Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The Murder in the Vicarage enjoyed an outstandingly popular run of 1758 performances from 1979 and onwards, but the honour of the Fortune’s longest-running production goes to Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. This dark thriller opened at the theatre in 1989 and is still going strong to this day, having celebrated its 5000th performance back on 2001. The recent film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe enticed a new set of theatregoers to the Fortune.
In February 2019, Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel began a regular Monday night residency at the Fortune Theatre. The award-winning show serves up a brand new piece of theatre each time, taking an audience suggestion as their title.