Dorset Garden Theatre



  • A former theater situated on the north bank of the Thames, just off Fleet Street, London. Its design has sometimes been ascribed to Sir Christopher Wren.

    The theater was planned by William Davenant, whodied before its completion. Although it had an impressive prosceniumarch, acting took place in front of it; productions had the advantageof the latest scenic effects, though the theater's narrow auditoriummade it somewhat cramped.

    The Dorset Garden opened in 1671 under the management of ThomasBetterton, the first production being a revival of Dryden'sSir Martin Mar-All. From 1672 to 1674 it was the only theateropen in London, as Drury Lane was being rebuilt following a fire.The Dorset Garden's reputation for musical works began with two adaptationsof Shakespeare: Davenant's musical Macbeth in 1673 and ThomasShadwell's The Enchanted Island, a retelling of The Tempest,in 1674. Two works by Dryden received their premiere here; TheKind Keeper; or, Mr Limberham (1678) and The Spanish Friar;or, The Double Discovery (1680).

    In 1682 financial pressures led the company to merge withthat at Drury Lane, which became their headquarters. Dorset Gardenwas subsequently used mainly for opera, being renamed the Queen'sTheatre in 1687 after Queen Mary II. Its popularity subsequently declinedand it became a home for circus acts and wild animal shows beforebeing demolished in 1709.