Royal Court Theatre

Sloane Square, London, SW1 8AS

About the venue

The Royal Court Theatre, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is a non-commercial West End theatre and a leading venue for new writing. It has gone by many names like the Belgravia Theatre, the New Chelsea Theatre, and the Court Theatre.

One of London’s Most-visited Theatres

The English Stage Company acquired the theatre in 1956. The building remains its home to date, contributing remarkably to contemporary theatre. Every year, more than 120,000 people visit the theatre; many others see its productions through the West End and Broadway transfers, UK, and international tours.

The History of the Royal Court Theatre

The building in Sloane Square was built on the site of the previous building. It reopened as the New Court Theatre on 24th September 1888. Bertie Crewe and Walter Emden designed it in beautiful red moulded and fine brick along with an Italianate style stone façade. The venue’s capacity was originally 841 seats across the gallery, amphitheatre, dress circle and stalls. The first show to play here was Mamma, a play by Sydney Grundy starring John Hare and Mrs John Wood. By the end of the 20th century, the venue changed its name back to the Royal Court Theatre again. In the 1970s, English Heritage designated it a Grade II listed building.

The theatre also served as a cinema before the Second World War. However, after suffering bomb damage, the building underwent renovation. It then entered a golden age following its acquisition by the English Stage Company. The premiere of John Osborne’s show Look Back In Anger took place here, after which the image of British theatre changed forever!

The Royal Court Theatre consists of two main spaces, upstairs and downstairs. The above space opened in 1969 with a premiere of The Rocky Horror Show. However, the building had to close in 1995. After closing, lottery funding helped it with extensive renovation and allowed it to later reopen in 2000. Both the 90-seat Jerwood Theatre Upstairs and 400-seat Jerwood Theatre Downstairs comprises of flexible seating allowing different configurations for each show. The theatre downstairs is divided into three levels – Balcony, Circle and Stalls. Being small and intimate in size, both the spaces offer a quality view to the audiences.

The Venue in Recent Times

Dominic Cooke has been the theatre’s Artistic Director since 2007, with Jeremy Herrin as Deputy Artistic Director and Sacha Wares as Associate Director. Before Cooke, the venue’s ADs were Ian Rickson from 1998 to 2006, George Devine, William Gaskill, Anthony Page, Lindsay Anderson, Oscar Lewenstein, Nicholas Wright, Robert Kidd, Stuart Burge, Max Stafford-Clark, and Stephen Daldry.

In the past decade, the Royal Court Theatre turned its focus towards the production and development of creative works from around the world. The theatre has delivered numerous hits and popular shows since 2010, including Posh by Laura Wade, starring Simon Shepherd, Kit Harington, Richard Goulding, Daniel Ryan, and several others. In 2015, there was Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, with Matthew Dunster directing and starring David Morrissey and Johnny Flynn.