Haymarket

Definition

Theater

  • The popular name for the Theatre Royal, Haymarket,London, a long-standing favourite of playgoers and the last theaterto be lit by candles. Built on the site of an old inn, it dates from1721 when it was named the Little Theatre in the Hay and presentedamateur performances. At that time, only Drury Lane and Covent Gardenheld patents to present public entertainment. Henry Fielding, whobecame manager in 1735, defied this by staging his own satires, causingthe theater to be closed in 1737. In 1747, Samuel Foote circumventedthe law by charging only for 'refreshments'; he was later grantedpermission to open when the two other theaters were closed for the summer.George Colman, who took over in 1776, obtained a full licence in 1777.

    Foote's shadow continued to haunt the theater 28 years after his death,when his play The Tailors was revived in 1805. Its portrayal of theprofession caused a riot of hundreds of London tailors that had to besuppressed by troops (see devil among the tailors).

    The architect John Nash redesigned the theater in 1821, addingits present Corinthian portico. John Poole's comedy Paul Prywas produced in 1825, and Julia Glover caused a sensation in 1833as Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. J.B. Buckstone was manager from 1853 to 1878, and his ghost is saidto still haunt the theater (see ghosts). In 1855 thevenue became known as the Theatre Royal. Gas lighting and London'sfirst 'picture frame' stage were later installed; the Haymarket wasgiven its present regal look, inspired by the Grand Th√©√Ętrede Bordeaux, in 1879.

    Beerbohm Tree, manager from 1887 to 1896, presentedthe first performances of Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance(1893) and An Ideal Husband (1895). Tree used profits fromthe Haymarket production of Trilby in 1895 to build Her Majesty'sTheatre across the road. The Haymarket was again remodelled in 1904and between 1939 and 1941.

    The longest run at the Haymarket was Terence Rattigan's Ross,which opened in 1960 and ran for 763 performances. In recent decades,the Haymarket has been associated mainly with star vehicles and transfersfrom other West End theaters. Recent successes have included the Victoria Wood musical Acorn Antiques, which enjoyed a sellout run in 2005,and the acclaimed Ian McKellen/Patrick Stewart version of Waitingfor Godot (2009).

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