LocationThe Novello Theatre is one of several theatres situated along the Aldwych, a long road curving along the bottom of the West End with the Strand at one end and Fleet Street at the other. The Aldwych is home to a multitude of high quality London hotels such as Aldwych One, as well as lots of impressive restaurants and bars. Try Cellar Door, a cabaret bar directly adjacent to the theatre in what used to be the area’s public gentleman’s toilets but is now a kooky drinking den with live cabaret and burlesque performers. The National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery and Covent Garden are also all within walking distance of the Novello 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 Novello Theatre dates back to 1905 where it opened as the Waldorf Theatre. Built as a twin to the Aldwych Theatre, the venue bookends the famous Aldwych on the south side. Throughout the 20th century the theatre was known as the Strand Theatre, until it was renamed in 2005 to honour musician Ivor Novello who lived in the flat above. Throughout the past decade the theatre has been home to the RSC's London season, as well as a number of musical flops.
The theatre is built in traditional Victorian style with a classical facade. Constructed over four levels it seats over 1000 people, with the majority of seats in the comfortable stalls section. The theatre is tall and thin, with shorter rows on each level making it feel relatively high. Best seats tend to be in the well raked Stalls, which have no obstructions.
The stalls have no central aisle and exits as one solid block. The whole section is raked meaning that views even towards the back of the section are brilliant. The auditorium feels wider thanks to a number of side mirrors, and each row only has a slight curve so even the end seats are within the proscenium arch of the stage, meaning all views are not side on.
The Dress Circle overhangs the Stalls around row J, affecting the section at row S. The rear stalls do not feel obstructed, and leg room on the whole is relatively good, as well as the width of the seats.
Within the main Dress Circle section views are generally unobstructed as there is no safety rail running around the balcony. The section is raked well, giving views over the heads of the audience in front. Seats on the extreme ends of rows have a view of the side wall which cuts into the stage, although this is not too much of a problem.
The Grand Circle is divided into a main section with slips running along the curve of the balcony. Only select these when discounted. Seats in this section follow the shape of the theatre, and the ends of each row are obstructed by the sides of the auditorium. A safety rail runs along the balcony and at the end of the first row the rail is double in height, affecting the view for those sitting on either end of row A, or the same seats the row behind.
There is a larger safety bar that runs the length of the Balcony, affecting the view for those in the front row, as well as the row behind. The rake of the section makes it feel particularly high and unsteady, but it is certainly an experience! Legroom is tight throughout this whole section, and the seats are not as comfortable as other levels.
AccessibilityThe Novello Theatre has seats situated across 4 levels: the Stalls, Dress Circle, Grand Circle and Balcony. The main entrance is 8 steps up from street level; however, there are two alternative entrances off Catherine Street. One is 4 steps down into the theatre, whereas the other is 9 steps down but has a stairlift that bypasses the stairs, leading to level access once inside the auditorium. From the main foyer there are 32 steps to the Stalls, 7 steps to the Dress Circle and 40 steps to the Upper Circle. A discounted rate is available for disabled patrons and their carers.
One wheelchair space and one transfer space is available per performance in the Dress Circle. Wheelchair users must bring a non-wheelchair user companion with them, and there is space for companions to sit near wheelchair users. Scooters cannot be accommodated inside the auditorium. There is an adapted toilet in the Dress Circle near the Catherine Street entrance. There is level access to Sam’s Bar via a stairlift, or else drinks can be brought to disabled guests in their seats.
There is a Sennheiser infra-red system installed in the auditorium. Guide dogs are not permitted to stay with their owners during the performance, but can be looked after by the theatre staff instead.Access bookings telephone line +44 (0) 344 482 5137 or access booking form
HistoryThe Novello Theatre was initially built as part of a pair with the Aldwych Theatre by W. G. R. Sprague, and has undergone many transformations since its opening in May 1905. First known as the Waldorf Theatre, it was renamed the Strand Theatre in 1909, the Whitney Theatre in 1911 and the Strand Theatre again in 1913, which it remained as until 2005 when it was renamed the Novello Theatre in memory of the esteemed playwright Ivor Novello, who lived in a flat above the theatre for almost 40 years. The building is now Grade II-listed and can hold up to 1105 patrons in its auditorium. The architecture is in-keeping with the grand buildings along the Aldwych, with pillars making up the huge facade.
The theatre has enjoyed a varied range of productions over the years, with some huge successes and other downright failures. In the 1940s the dark comedy Arsenic and Lace was a big hit for the theatre, running for 1337 performances, and the 1971 comedy No Sex Please, We’re British ran for an impressive 10 years at the theatre. Its record in the 21st century has been patchier; after reopening in 2005 with a successful season of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a subsequent production of the musical Footloose, the theatre put on a commercially unsuccessful production of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, which failed to attract audiences despite starring Elaine Paige.
2007 also saw a disastrous musical interpretation of the film Desperately Seeking Susan, which received awful reviews, ran for just two months in total and lost the theatre £3.5million! Nonetheless, later shows such as Shadowlands, Into the Hoods and Betty Blue Eyes have all charmed the critics, although the latter failed to match its critical success with commercial value and closed earlier than expected. In 2012 the Novello became the new home of Abba Juke Box musical Mamma Mia!
- Noises Off, opened 24 Mar 2012, closed 30 Jun 2012