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The Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly The Comedy Theatre), is a London West End theatre, and opened on Panton Street in the City of Westminster on 15 October 1881. It was known then as the Royal Comedy Theatre.
The Harold Pinter Theatre: History
The theatre was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months in painted stucco stone and brick. By 1884 it was known as just the Comedy Theatre.
In 1883, the successful operetta Falka had its London première at The Harold Pinter Theatre, and in 1885, Erminie did the same. The Harold Pinter's reputation grew through World War I when Charles Blake Cochran and André Charlot presented their famous revue shows. In the mid-1950s West End's Harold Pinter Theatre underwent major reconstruction and re-opened in December 1955, the auditorium remains essentially that of 1881, with three tiers of horseshoe shaped balconies.
The Harold Pinter Theater was notable for the role it played in overturning stage censorship by establishing the New Watergate Club in 1956, under producer Anthony Field. The outdated Theatres Act 1843 still required scripts to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. Formation of the club allowed plays that had been banned due to language or subject matter to be performed under 'club' conditions. Plays produced in this way at The Harold Pinter included the UK premieres of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy and Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. The law was not revoked until 1968, but in the late 1950s there was a loosening of conditions in theatre censorship, the club was dissolved and Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise premiered to a public audience.
The Harold Pinter Theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in June 1972.
The Homecoming, No-man's Land, Moonlight, The Hothouse and The Caretaker have all been presented at The Harold Pinter in recent years. Maureen Lipman has also graced The Harold Pinter stage, starring in Alan Plater's highly acclaimed comedy, Peggy For You, but the theatre's two biggest successes were The Caretaker starring Michael Gambon in 2000 and an eight week sell out of Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs in 1999, starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Denis Lawson, which smashed all box office records. More recently, Francesca Annis and Anthony Andrews have starred in Ibsen's Ghosts and 2004 saw the much lauded revival of RC Sherriff's Journey's End and a successful run of The Old Masters by Simon Gray, starring Edward Fox and Peter Bowles This production was directed by Harold Pinter, after whom the then Comedy Theatre was of course renamed The Harold Pinter Theatre.
In January 2005, Kim Cattrall starred in Peter Hall's London production of Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Brian Clark, followed by Tom Courtenay in Brian Friel's The Home Place and Joseph Fiennes and Francesca Annis starred in Epitaph for George Dillon by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton. The Harold Pinter Theatre London has also played host to Steptoe and Son, Michael Frayn's Donkey's Years, the Rocky Horror Show, and the hilarious high-flying comedy, Boeing-Boeing.
As of 8th of September 2011, The Comedy Theatre was renamed as The Harold Pinter Theatre.