The Theatre Royal Haymarket was built in 1720, first opening as the 'Little Theatre in the Hay'. The venue struggled as it was illegal to stage plays, or by simply ignoring the law and doing it in secret. The Haymarket survived by doing a little of both.
When a satire mocking the Prime Minister was staged in the 1730s, it triggered a censorship law that tied the hands of all theatres, requiring government approval for every production. The theatre expanded in a new building, but didn’t get its glamorous front face until 1821, when measures were taken to beautify London. Charles Macklin founded what could be considered the first drama school, assembling his students to put on performances for a live audience and was also the first theatre to have a stage ‘framed’ as if by a picture frame.
During the Blitz, the Haymarket was watched over by actor John Gielgud, who set up living quarters in one of the dressing rooms to act as fire warden.
Actors including Ian McKellen, Peter O’Toole, Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith have all performed at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.