The Arts Theatre is an independent commercial theatre situated in the heart of London’s West End, providing a dynamic programme of entertainment of all genres.
The Arts originally opened in 1927 as a members-only venue for the performance of unlicensed productions. It was home to several determined, independent companies at this time, including Q Theatre and Hampstead Everyman, all specialising in producing experimental plays.
As the theatre’s reputation grew for being an innovative venue, it was colloquially referred to as the ‘pocket national theatre’. During this time, it featured collaborations with many famous names. In 1940, it was subject to a ten-year ownership between the renowned actor Alec Clunes and John Hanau, producing a wide range of plays. Two years later, Clunes partnered with well-known author Peter Elstob to raise a £20,000 fund for the venue.
In the 1950s, the Arts Theatre hosted Ronnie Barker’s West End debut in a production of Mourning Becomes Electra, directed by the great Sir Peter Hall. Hall’s production of this, alongside his English-language version of Waiting For Godot, was renowned in British theatre.
Between 1967 and 1999, the theatre was home to a diverse programme which changed between the daytime and evening: during the day it presented premium children’s entertainment with the Unicorn Theatre, and at night it hosted performances including work by Tom Stoppard.