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The Playhouse Theatre was the first venue to stage a George Bernard Shaw play.
The BBC used the theatre as a broadcast venue from 1951 to 1976, but abandoned it afterwards, meaning it almost faced demolition.
The machinery underneath the stage is still the same as when the theatre was built.
In 1905, part of the roof from Charing Cross Station collapsed onto the theatre and killed six workers who were redecorating at the time.
Jeffrey Archer owned the theatre from 1988 to 1992.
The first Playhouse Theatre was branded as the Royal Avenue Theatre; opening in 1882, it was made for comic operas and burlesques that were oh so fashionable in those days. But this trend only lasted a few years, with a shift to ‘serious dramas’ that saw George Bernard Shaw write his first play as a last minute favour to the creative director, and end up making a career out of it.
With less than 25 years of performances under its belt, the Royal Avenue Theatre was undergoing building works when, rather gruesomely, the adjacent Charing Cross Station collapsed onto it and crushed six of the workers. The show must go on though, and it reopened in 1907 under its current name The Playhouse Theatre.
It carried on life as a mid-size theatre until the 1950s, when the BBC acquired it for radio and live recordings (including Steptoe and Son). It was occasionally used in the ‘60s as a live music venue for rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Despite these high-profile gigs, once the BBC left in 1976, the empty and unused theatre looked like it was going to face demolition – luckily, the idea to build an extra storey which could be rented out to businesses helped the Playhouse Theatre remodel, and it opened again in 1987. Since then, it’s hosted an eclectic mixture of shows, from campy musicals to Shakespeare plays (and everything in between.)