Fortune Theatre History and Timeline

Another extension!

Another extension!

2004-09-25

The Woman in Black has announced it is extended its booking period until 30 April 2005.

Sleuth closes

Sleuth closes

1975-10-25

Anthony Shaffer’s long-running Sleuth closes after transferring to the Fortune Theatre from the Garrick. It first opened at St Martin’s Theatre on 12 February 1970.

The Fortune Theatre was built

The Fortune Theatre was built

1922-01-01

Building work for the Fortune Theatre began in 1922 under the management of Laurence Cowan, who commissioned the architect Ernest Schaufelberg. It was named as the Fortune Theatre after Shakespeare's venue which was destroyed in a fire in 1621. It's one of the West End's youngest theatres and the first to be built after World War I. The architecture is simple and clean, built in unusual ferro-concrete with a statue of the Goddess of Fortune gazing down over the entrance like a ship's figure head. The theatre was built on the site of the old Albion Tavern, a pub frequented by Georgian actors. It is close neighbours with the infamous Theatre Royal Drury Lane and Scottish National Church.

The theatre opened with 'Sinners'

The theatre opened with 'Sinners'

1924-11-08

The Fortune Theatre opened in the autumn of 1924 with 'Sinners', a play written by the theatre's owner Laurence Cowan. It allegedly caused a stir with the Scottish National Church next door and only ran for two weeks. The short running time of the first show unfortunately sparked a trend, with unsuccessful shows coming and going from the Fortune Theatre a little too regularly.

Are You a Mason?'

Are You a Mason?'

1925-02-02

Leo Ditrichstein wrote his play 'Are You a Mason?' in 1901, and it was performed on Broadway in the same year by William Collier. It was turned into a popular silent film in 1915 and made into a 'talkie' in 1934.

The venue struggled to bring in an audience

The venue struggled to bring in an audience

1925-01-01

Despite its name, the Fortune Theatre struggled to bring in the audience numbers it needed during its early years. The much larger Theatre Royal Drury Lane was a bigger pull, and it lay just around the corner from the Fortune.

On Approval

On Approval

1927-04-19

On Approval was written by Frederick Lonsdale in 1926 and premiered at the Gaiety Theatre in New York. It moved to the Fortune Theatre in 1927 and ran for over a year.

Tom Walls takes over

Tom Walls takes over

1927-01-01

In 1927 the actor manager Tom Walls took over the management of the Fortune. Walls was an English stage and film actor who moved into theatre management with his business partner, the comedy actor Leslie Henson. Walls is best known for his work on the twelve Aldwych farces in the 1920s and their film adaptations in the 1930s.

Chekhov's Three Sisters

Chekhov's Three Sisters

1929-10-23

Chekhov’s Three Sisters opens, directed by Theodore Komisarjevsky. Set in a small Russian town, three sisters and their brother long to return to the exciting, urban life in Moscow that they once led. One of Chekhov’s major plays, it is staged regularly.

The People's Theatre

The People's Theatre

1930-01-01

The theatre manager and drama critic Jack Thomas Grein thought of he People's Theatre in 1930 and co-founded the group with actress Nancy Price. He was inspired by Berlin's Volkstheater, which made theatre about the people for the people. He wanted The People's Theatre group to be based at the Fortune Theatre, and they held their first production 'The Man From Blankleys' there in 1930. Even though they had successful performances the group disbanded in 1931.

The ENSA moves in

The ENSA moves in

1939-01-01

The ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) moved into the Fortune Theatre during World War II to provide entertainment for armed forces personnel. The organisation gave much needed relief to members of the Army, Navy and RAF in locations all around the country and overseas. They even filled London Underground stations during bomb strikes. Despite having many popular entertainers they were stretched to cover the huge areas, and the acronym ENSA was sometimes used as 'every night something awful'. ENSA has since been overtaken by Combined Services Entertainment which still operates for our armed forces today.

ENSA takes over the Fortune

ENSA takes over the Fortune

1946-01-01

The first performance after ENSA appropriated the theatre for use during WWII was Fools Rush In. The comedy by Kenneth Horne focuses on the character of Pam, who wakes up on the morning of her wedding terrified by the gravity of promising herself to someone for her entire life.

Agatha Christie's The Hollow

Agatha Christie's The Hollow

1951-06-07

The Hollow by Agatha Christie opens at the Fortune Theatre and runs for 376 performances. Christie herself adapted the script from her book of the same title. The Times’ critic praised Christie’s skill in building suspense.

Flanders and Swann perform 'At The Drop of a Hat'

Flanders and Swann perform 'At The Drop of a Hat'

1956-11-30

Flanders and Swann were a duo who raised the profile of the comic song during the 1950s and 60s. Flanders penned the words and Swann composed the music, and their work was sung by comic performers such as Joyce Grenfell and Ian Wallace. Their show 'At The Drop of a Hat' transferred to the Fortune Theatre in 1957 and ran for two successful years. Flanders had contracted polio many years before and had to sing the songs in a wheelchair, with Swann sitting behind his piano.

Beyond the Fringe is a huge success

Beyond the Fringe is a huge success

1960-11-30

Beyond the Fringe was the brainchild of Robert Ponsonby, the artistic director of the Edinburgh International Festival. He wanted to bring together the best comedy sketches from the Cambridge Footlights and the Oxford Revue, and a cast was formed with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The show ran in Edinburgh to mixed reviews but became hugely successful on its transfer to the Fortune Theatre. The sketches satirised authority figures in a surrealist style, and many claim that it inspired Monty Python and 'That Was the Week That Was'. The show sparked the rise of Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, who had been ready to begin careers in medicine and academia. The show moved from the Fortune Theatre to tour the US before a different cast version came to London until 1966. A live recording was also released.

Wait a Minim!

Wait a Minim!

1964-04-10

South African show Wait a Minim!, consisting of over 50 songs and sketches, runs at the Fortune Theatre for 2 years before transferring to Broadway.

A Present from the Corporation

A Present from the Corporation

1967-11-30

After a run at the Swan Theatre in Worcester, A Present From the Corporation is so popular that locals fund a 3-day run at the Fortune Theatre in London in the attempt that the show transfers to the West End. No producers took any interest in the show.

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

1968-02-01

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs for 116 performances at the Fortune Theatre. The musical presents a day in the life of Charlie Brown and his friends, as depicted in the comic strip, ‘Peanuts’.

The Contractor

The Contractor

1970-03-01

David Storey’s play The Contractor runs at The Fortune Theatre. Storey was known for exploring the conflict between his working class, Northern roots and his fine arts education in London on stage. In The Contractor, the action centres on builders erecting and dismantling a marquee for a wedding reception.

Murder at the Vicarage' by Agatha Christie

Murder at the Vicarage' by Agatha Christie

1976-07-05

Murder at the Vicarage' is the Fortune Theatre's second longest running show after 'The Woman in Black'. It transferred from the Savoy Theatre after its year long occupancy and remained at the Fortune for 1373 performances.

Mr Cinders

Mr Cinders

1982-04-27

The 1928 musical Mr Cinders is revived at the Fortune Theatre and runs for 527 performances. Dennis Lawson plays the title role in this adaptation of the Cinderella story.

Nunsense

Nunsense

1987-03-23

Nunsense opens at the Fortune Theatre and runs for 342 performances. The musical comedy tells the story of a New Jersey convent where the cook accidently poisons most of sisters. To fund their burials, they start a greetings card company and a variety show. Their acts are, of course, amusingly inappropriate.

The Woman in Black' begins it's legendary run

The Woman in Black' begins it's legendary run

1989-06-07

The Woman in Black' is one of the West End's biggest success stories and has played at the Fortune Theatre for well over 20 years. In 1989 the show had no fewer than four transfers, from the Lyric Hammersmith to the Novello Theatre to the Playhouse Theatre and (finally) to the Fortune Theatre. It prides itself on being 'the most terrifying live experience in the world', and judging by the screams of the audience it seems to be living up to its claim. Given the sporadic success of the Fortune's previous shows it's wonderful to see a performance that has flourished there.

The Woman in Black turns 10

The Woman in Black turns 10

1999-06-07

The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre is 10 years old! With a decade of scaring audiences from all over the world, under its belt, the show looks like it will continue running for some time.

Woman in Black extends

Woman in Black extends

2002-08-13

The Woman in Black has extended its booking period until 1 March 2003.

25th cast begin

25th cast begin

2003-02-03

Pip Donaghy and Colin Hurley make up the new The Woman in Black cast. They mark the 25th pair of actors to play in the West End run.

New cast announced

New cast announced

2005-12-08

Robert Demeger and Timothy Wilson have returned the Fortune Theatre as the new cast in The Woman in Black.

Sean Baker and Ben Porter take over

Sean Baker and Ben Porter take over

2007-12-03

The Woman in Black welcomes a new cast. Sean Baker and Ben Porter play The Actor and Arthur Kipps respectively. The show has also extended its booking period until 20 December 2008.

The Woman in Black turns 20

The Woman in Black turns 20

2009-06-07

The Woman in Black celebrates 20 years running at the Fortune Theatre! It’s widely regarded as the scariest show ever in to be seen in the West End.

A new pair takes over

A new pair takes over

2010-12-20

There’s a new cast in The Woman in Black! Patrick Drury plays Arthur Kipps, and Antony Eden plays The Actor.

A new cast starts

A new cast starts

2011-09-26

A new cast takes over: David Acton plays Arthur Kipps, and Ben Deery plays The Actor in The Woman in Black.

Crawford Logan and Tim Delap join

Crawford Logan and Tim Delap join

2013-04-09

A new cast starts in The Woman in Black: Crawford Logan plays Arthur Kipps and Tim Delap plays The Actor.

Julian Forsyth and Antony Eden take over

Julian Forsyth and Antony Eden take over

2014-09-01

Julian Forsyth and Antony Eden take over the roles of Arthur Kipps and The Actor until August 2015.

The Woman in Black celebrates 25 years

The Woman in Black celebrates 25 years

2015-06-07

London's most terrifying show celebrates 25 years of haunting the West End's Fortune Theatre. Launching a new UK tour, The Woman in Black has now been at the Fortune Theatre for an impressive 25 years. Have you seen it?

Stuart Fox and Joseph Chance begin performing

Stuart Fox and Joseph Chance begin performing

2016-12-22

Stuart Fox (Woman in Mind, Vaudeville; The Normal Heart, Royal Court and Albery) and Joseph Chance (Jeeves & Wooster, UK and Far East Tour; Wallander) are cast as Mr Kipps and The Actor.

Welcome Malcolm James and Matt Connor

Welcome Malcolm James and Matt Connor

2016-03-09

Malcolm James and Matt Connor begin performing in The Woman in Black. James plays Arthur Kipps after touring in the show. Matt Connor makes his West End debut as The Actor.

Introducing Terence Wilton and James Byng

Introducing Terence Wilton and James Byng

2017-08-29

A new The Woman in Black cast begins with Terence Wilton as ‘Arthur Kipps’ and James Byng as ‘The Actor’.

The Woman in Black is re-reviewed

The Woman in Black is re-reviewed

2018-01-01

Neil Norman reviews The Woman in Black in The Daily Express, giving it 4 stars. Though the show is the second-longest running the West End, it continues to give audiences unforgettable experiences.