Theatre Royal Stratford East

Gerry Raffles Square, London, E15 1BN

About the venue

Located in the London Borough of Newham, the Theatre Royal Stratford East is a big theatre building. The famous theatre group "Theatre Workshop", known for their association with Joan Littlewood, resided at the theatre since 1953. It is a Grade II building with a seating capacity of 460 across three levels that hosts its own as well as touring productions. Pioneer Theatres Limited owns and operates the venue.

History of the Theatre

English actor-manager Charles Dillon commissioned architect James George Buckle in 1884 to design the theatre. It is Buckle's only work that still exists, which he constructed on Salway Road, on the site of a wheelwright's shop. A revival of Richelieu by Edward Bulwer-Lytton lit up the theatre's opening on 17th December 1884. Dillon soon sold it to his sister's brother-in-law Albert O'Leary Fredericks.

The venue underwent a name change to Theatre Royal and Palace of Varieties in 1887. The addition of side extensions reached completion in the same year. Four years later, the original architect enlarged the stage. Frank Matcham initiated little adjustments to the foyer and entrance in 1902. In 1914, its name became Theatre Royal Stratford East once more.

In 1921, the theatre's stage caught a fire which severely damaged the rear. Fortunately, because the fire began at midnight, the safety curtain was lowered, which saved the auditorium and its original features.

The Fredericks family managed the venue until 1932, but it began facing financial problems following the First World War. The Letters "FF" on the proscenium refers to the Fredericks. There are superstitions that the venue will fall if anyone removes the letters.

A Dramatic Change

The Theatre Royal Stratford East closed in 1938. It reopened in '43, hosting revues that failed to get it back up on its feet, leading to its closure until October 1946. The theatre touched a short-lived success with David Horne, premiering shows like Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton, starring Derek Bond and Sybil Thorndike. It experienced a 6-month run and became the venue's first West End transfer. In December 1949, the theatre closed again.

After construction of the Stratford Shopping Centre in the 1970s, the theatre's future was uncertain. However, a public campaign saved it and the English Heritage designated it as a Grade II listed building in June 1972.

Big Hits at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

The Theatre Royal Stratford East hit major success when it premiered the unique play "Five Guys Named Moe" in 1990. The show transferred to the West End almost immediately and bagged the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. Even today, companies all over the world put on by companies, including Broadway.

The theatre became historic by staging the first British Black musical entitled "The Big Life", which transferred to the West End, playing at the Apollo Theatre. It also produced a musical version of "The Harder They Come", the famous cult Jamaican film in 2005.