The Arts Theatre is in the heart of the West End, Leicester Square. Almost a century old, the venue opened as a private member club in 1927.
It is currently an independent theatre offering a good platform for smaller musicals and plays. The theatre won the Best Theatrical Venue at the Broadway World Awards.
It is a beautiful red brick building with a period façade and beautiful arched windows. While the interior houses a simple rectangular auditorium, massive pilasters connect the exterior of the 2nd and 3rd floors. Although the theatre may seem small, the well-planned design maximises the auditorium’s seating by utilising the theatre’s three sides and arranging it over two levels. This makes the theatre feel larger.
Fun Fact: The façade of the Arts Theatre is older than the venue.
The Arts Theatre is intimate, providing 123 seats in the Circle and 230 in the Stall – a total of 353 seats. Usually, theatregoers can book the Circle Slips at heavy discounts. Even though the arrangement faces side-on to the stage, the discounted prices make this area highly demanded. The centre of rows B-C offers a great viewing experience. However, the premium seats offer the best view of the stage, especially the centre of rows B-H in the Stalls. See the action clearly and conveniently without restriction. Overall, the theatre is a conventional black box venue which offers the audiences with good views.
Back in 1927, the Arts Theatre Club was founded. The building was leased from the Salisbury Estate, and a surprisingly comfortable theatre was built in the basement. Designed by P Morley Horder, it cost about eighteen and a half thousand pounds. Upon its opening, the theatre focused on producing experimental un-licensed shows for subscriber-only spectators, keeping away from over-enthusiastic censorship. But it produced some fantastic shows which led the theatre to transfer to commercial endeavours and be hugely successful. One such production is Gordon Daviot’s Richard of Bordeaux (1932).
In 1934, Basil Ionides refurbished the auditorium, after which a fire badly damaged it. However, its reconstruction commenced immediately. Alec Clunes produced over a hundred shows here from 1942 to 1952, which gave it the nickname “The National Pocket Theatre” and also national status. The venue’s responsibility was on Sir Peter Hall next. He was only 24 when he started handling the theatre. Then, it became home to Caryl Jenner’s The Unicorn children’s theatre from 1967 to 1999. The following two decades have witnessed the theatre staging a wide variety of new, mainstream hits. A group of producers leased the Arts Theatre in 2000 and ran it for five years. During that time, they staged Julian Mitchell’s famous play Another Country. J J Goodman took over in 2011.
Today, the theatre is the smallest independent commercial theatre in the West End. It is famous for showing innovative plays, comedies, and one-off cabarets.