Theatre Royal Haymarket

1820 – John Nash

John Nash : the new Theatre Royal Haymarket

In 1820, deciding that London was looking tired and old, the Prince Regent instructed architect John Nash to enhance the appearance of the city, redesigning its shabby fronticepieces with new awe-inspiring glamour. Nash had particular plans for the modest little Haymarket Theatre, envisaging a lofty, elegant frontage with a spectacular theatre behind. For optimum impact however, the architect insisted the whole building be shifted, south of where it stood, so that it may line up with St James’s Square. Morris of course agreed, and the work began.

On the 4th of July 1821, the new Theatre Royal Haymarket opened with a production of Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’. Nash’s new Haymarket Theatre was in many ways the same as the last. The interior sidewalls were still flat, all three with three tiers of boxes and containing the back gallery and the pit. The crucial difference lay in the splendour of the whole. The décor was ornate and opulent; the colours were pink, crimson and gold and the proscenium arch was supported by two massive marble pillars, lined at their tops with spectacular golden palm fronts. The theatre also sported what is now one of the few surviving raked stages, slanting away from the audience so that the actor, moving back, could be more clearly seen. Through the ensuing season, theatrical legends such as Edmund Kean graced this new stage, playing King Lear and Richard III among others.

Did you know? The Theatre Royal Haymarket Archive documents the fascinating history of the theatre. To find out more, click here


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