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David Garrick, who the theatre is named after, was a successful actor and manager in the 18th century who left a theatre legacy particularly in Shakespeare. Funnily enough, he almost missed his theatre calling, as he first came to London working as a wine seller.
The dressing rooms of the theatre are actually separate to the auditorium itself, and performers need to go through an underground tunnel to get there!
Previous manager and actor Arthur Bourchier haunts the theatre from time to time, tapping people on their backs.
It’s lucky the Garrick Theatre hasn’t been washed away, because when first excavations started on the building site, an underground river was discovered to be running underneath. A significant obstacle that halted planned works, it was eventually overcome to give us the Garrick Theatre thanks to the financial backing of W.S. Gilbert (half of the comic opera duo Gilbert and Sullivan).
This wasn’t the only time the Garrick almost called it a day; in 1934 plans were made to convert it into a ‘super-cinema’ but were never seen through to the end, while a 1968 redevelopment of Covent Garden that threatened the demolition of several theatres included the Garrick Theatre among its numbers. Luckily, the bullet was dodged both times.
Its production content has varied through the years. Starting out as a venue for melodramas (dramas that play on emotions), a shift was made towards farces and Shakespeare plays under new management. In the 1920s the Moscow Art Theatre Company staged plays by Russian playwrights, while during the Second World War it was briefly a site for the armed forces to put on shows.
In recent years though, its biggest successes were No Sex Please We’re British running there 4 years, as well as a 6 year run of An Inspector Calls that transferred from the National in the ‘90s. Having been restored around this time, the Garrick Theatre is today an ideal venue for comedic theatre and smaller musicals.