Windmill Theatre



  • "We never closed" was the proud slogan of the Windmill, theonly London theater to keep its doors open throughout the Londonblitz (see at closed). The theater was built in 1910 as asmall cinema in Great Windmill Street, near Piccadilly, on the site of an18th-century windmill. The building, which has 326 seats on two levels,reopened as a theater in 1931 with Michael Barrington's Inquest.A year later the owner, Laura Henderson, and her manager, Vivian Van Damm,began a programme of nonstop variety acts entitled Revuedeville. Thetheater subsequently became famous for its tableaux of nude girls (theWindmill Girls) interspersed with young comedians. Jimmy Edwards, HarrySecombe, and Tony Hancock all learnt their trade there, having to work doublyhard to win laughs from an audience who had paid for titillation.Revuedeville continued until 1964, when the building reverted to beinga cinema. The impresario Paul Raymond purchased it in 1974 and opened with thesex comedy Let's Get Laid, followed by another nude revue, Rip-Off.The Windmill was converted into a theater-restaurant in 1981. The glorydays of the Windmill were recreated in Stephen Frears's 2005 film MrsHenderson Presents, which featured Judi Dench in the title role.