The Fortune Theatre, London
The Fortune Theatre in Russell Street is a small compact and intimate traditional style proscenium arch theatre designed by the architect Ernest Schaufelberg in a restrained 'Art Deco' style. The theatre seats just over 400 people on three levels.
Although preliminary groundworks where started in December 1922, the building work was slow, taking nearly twice as long as at first anticipated. Finally, after two years and much delay, The Fortune Theatre finally opened it's doors to the public on Wednesday 8 November 1924 - the first West End theatre to be built after the First World War.
The Fortune Theatre building itself is noted for two things in particular: Firstly the building has a 'hanging freehold' with the adjacent Scottish National Church - a corridor belonging to the Church runs along one side of the theatre's auditorium at ground level, with the stalls level under it, the Dress Circle level along side it, and the Upper Circle above it! Secondly the building is noted for being an early example of 'ferro-concrete' construction - as evidenced by the exposed concrete facing on the theatre's frontage.
The Fortune Theatre benefited from a major renovation in 1960 and today it remains as a delightful imtimate theatre, and a contrast to the huge 2,200 seater Drury Lane Theatre which drawfs it opposite in Russell Street.
Somewhat appropriately (or perhaps, rather unappropriately!) considering the closeness this theatre has with the Church next door, the first production to be staged at this theatre was Laurence Cowan's play called Sinners!
The theatre has had a rather chequered history history as for as productions go. The first 'hit' here was On Approval, a comedy of manners by Frederick Lonsdale, which had a run of just over one year in 1927. Then in 1957 the Flanders and Swan revue At The Drop Of A Hat run for 733 performances. In 1961 Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller staged their revue called Beyond The Fringe here - the show run for 1,184 performances before transferring to the Mayfair Theatre. In 1979 the play Murder In The Vicarage had a run of 1,758 performances.
The record for the Fortune Theatre's longest run though goes to the current production, The Woman in Black, a thriller adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from a novel by Susan Hill. The Woman in Black originally opened at the Strand Theatre on 15 February 1989 before transferring to the Playhouse Theatre on 18 April 1989 and then finally to the Fortune Theatre on 7 June 1989, which is reckoned to be the ideal theatre for this two (or is it three?) person thriller - where it has been ever since having played over 6,000 performances at The Fortune Theatre alone! Interspered during it's run has been a number of 'Sunday Night' performances.