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Although the Fortune Theatre opened in 1924, theatres have been found on the site since 1610, with famous Georgian and Victorian actors performing on Russell Street. The Fortune Theatre was built on the site of an old tavern, the first to be built after World War I. The Fortune Theatre is the oldest remaining public building using concrete for its textured and visible façade.
Laurence Cowen funded the project, and used it to his advantage by staging his original play titled Sinners at the Fortune Thriller Theatre. Fortuna, the Greek goddess of fortune, guards over the door on the front face of the theatre.
During the Second World War the venue was reserved for performers from the armed forces, following on a tradition of amateur performances in the 1930s. Professional turns came from Dame Judi Dench and Maureen Lipman, as well as the satirical modern revue Beyond the Fringe that helped shape British satire after the 1960s.
The Fortune Theatre has been spellbound by The Woman in Black, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. Both actors and audiences have noted the ghost of a woman dressed in black in the bar and watching the play from one of the boxes.