The Duke of York’s early history is notable for its production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Charlie Chaplin also made his stage debut at the Duke of York’s, starring in a production of Sherlock Holmes at just 14 years old.
The theatre changed its name from ‘Trafalgar’ to ‘Duke of York’s’ in honour of the man who would later become King George V. A ghost is said to haunt the Duke of York's. The ghost is believed to be that of Violet Melnotte, a one-time owner of the theatre until her death in the 1930s, has been heard from her old box and seen in the backstage green room from time to time.
Going through a phase of troubled management in the 1950s, when two productions ran for three nights and one night respectively, by the late 1970s the theatre was restored to its original cream and gold décor and rejuvenated with several well-received productions – among them Rose with Glenda Jackson; American Buffalo with Al Pacino and Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine. Today the Duke of York’s is a superb venue for plays and musicals that fill its 650-person capacity.