The Peacock Theatre fluttered its theatrical feathers today from 1660, when a woman appeared on stage for the first time in Shakespeare’s Othello. But it wasn’t until 1911 that the fire-damaged original theatre was rebuilt as the magnificent 2,600-seater as the London Opera House. The venue closed by 1912, and took another few years to reopen as the Stoll Picture Theatre, screening silent films with an in-house orchestra alongside occasional variety show performances. A water tank was kept under the stage in the 1930s – which held dolphins!
The theatre had found its niche until 1957 when it was knocked down and replaced by a boxy office block. As compensation, the old owners were allowed to build a 1000-seat theatre in the office basement named the Royalty Theatre which opened in 1960. The scaled-down venue only saw moderate success, with its novel drag shows ahead of their time.
The London School of Economics bought the building to use as a lecture theatre, giving it the recognisable name the Peacock Theatre. It only became a performance venue when dance company Sadler’s Wells scouted it as a West End home.