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The Woman in Black is a terrifying play, but it’s all a story, right? Not exactly. 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.
Fortuna, the Greek goddess of fortune, guards over the door on the front face of the theatre.
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.
Although the Fortune Theatre was the first theatre to be built in 10 years when it opened in 1924, it wasn’t the first theatre to be found at its site – going as far back as 1610, the Cockpit Theatre was in its place. If you strolled along Russell Street in the years in between, you would have come across ‘Albion Tavern’, and maybe even run into a famous face of the Georgian and Victorian eras, as it was an inn popular with actors during the 18th and 19th centuries. Clearly, the site always attracted actors.
Playwright Laurence Cowen funded the project, and used it to his advantage by staging his original play ‘Sinners’ there for opening night under the name ‘The Fortune Thriller Theatre’. Too bad the public weren’t keen, as ‘Sinners’ closed after a measly two weeks.
Nonetheless, the Fortune Theatre wasn’t a completely wasted investment for Mr Cowen. 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 later on 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.
Ever since 1991 however, the Fortune Theatre has been spellbound by The Woman in Black, the horror play which evokes the theatre’s old name the ‘Fortune Thriller’. Having celebrated 9000 performances in 2011, she looks unlikely to haunt anywhere else soon.