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Harold Pinter Theatre history

Designed by the well-respected theatre architect Thomas Verity, the Harold Pinter opened in 1881. The current venue was made a Grade II listed building in 1972 and the theatre has enjoyed a varied selection of opera and original plays ever since.

This venue has always been associated with experimental and ground-breaking work, dating back to its first operettas and revue shows. Pre war performances included Raffles in 1906 and Peg O’ Heart of Minein 1914. During the First World War, Charles Cochran and André Charlot also brought their famous revues to the stage.

Habitually sparking controversy, the venue played a large part in overturning theatre censorship with its New Watergate Club, established in 1956. The club refused to abide by the outdated Theatres Act of 1843, meaning it staged plays that had previously been banned. Notable plays staged at the theatre at this time were Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and Sympathy.

The famous Rocky Horror Show made its London debut at the theatre in 1979, after opening at the Royal Court Theatre. Then the venue programmed a number of Harold Pinter plays in the 1990s, including The Homecoming in 1991, The Caretaker in 1992, Moonlight in 1995 and the 1995 production of The Hothouse, perhaps the biggest reason for the name change from the Comedy Theatre to the Harold Pinter in early 2011.

In 2006, the theatre became the home of the cult production of The Rocky Horror Show again, courtesy of Richard O’Brien. 2010 saw the theatre house the stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' award-winning novel, Birdsong. Then in 2012, comedian and actor Rob Brydon stared in Alan Ayckbourn’s A Chorus of Disapproval.

The theatre took on the transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Steven Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along in 2013. The production, directed by Maria Friedman, received the most five star reviews in the history of the West End. This was followed by the new play Chimerica, by Lucy Kirkwood, which received similarly magnificent reviews.

In its long history, the venue has seen such legendary performers as Michael Gambon, Ewan McGregor, Maureen Lipman, Kim Cattrall, Alan Bennett and Joseph Fiennes tread the boards. Other significant plays at the theatre include Donkey’s Years, Boeing-Boeing, Sunset Boulevard and The Children’s Hour.