Cambridge Theatre, London

Current show: The Royal Shakespeare Company's award-winning production of Matilda The Musical, based on the book by Roald Dahl and featuring songs by Tim Minchin.

A modern theatre, facing Seven Dials, built using steel and concrete and is notable for its elegant and clean lines of design. Just prior to the theatre's official opening a newspaper described the new theatre thus: "In respect of its interior the new Cambridge Theatre at Seven Dials may claim even to surpass any theatre in the modern world. It displays every skill in planning, every beauty in line, and every charm in colour and comfort. Its interior is so good that a critic can be really enthusiastic about it without forsaking his censorial rights. This is the first masterpiece in theatre design we have hitherto produced in the so-called 'functionalist' manner, and ir seems to establish the movement and vindicate it for all time. One must stress here that this high praise is in respect of the planning and interior only, for the external design, although good, unfortunately displays evidences of compromise with the ordinary traditional Renaissance, and, apart from this, the exterior gives very little clue in dramatic qualities to the size or formation of the interior. Yet the architects, Messrs. Wimperis Simpson, and Guthrie, F.R.I.B.A.; the decorator, Mr. S. Chermayeff and Mr W. S. Veness, the electrical expert, are to be congratulated on producing a most remarkable building... The general form of the interior is in one great volume - horse-shoe-shaped - where the vertical walls sweep up in unbroken bands to the elliptical shape of the ceiling. The general form widens out and increases in height towards the back of the auditorium. The effect of this may best he described as telescopic, with the plain elliptical bands converging towards the proscenium. Each successive band as it approaches the stage is slightly smaller than the one behind, giving a space for a rim of light which is thrown along the ceiling away from the stage... The effect when the ceiling bands are lit up is most captivating... Everything from the design of carpets down to the smallest detail shows patient and conscientious thought. Yet, though the internal design is almost startlingly modern, it is singularly free from eccentricities, or the more abstract notions of the cubistic school; and, standing on the stage to see the 'Zeppelin-like' beauty of the upper auditorium, and then to look at the perfect organisation of the stage machinery, light floats, and colour switching, one does not feel that there is any of that usual inconsistency between the two sides of the curtain."

The theatre was refurbished in 1950 - the original gold and silver decor was painted over in red and candelabras and chandeliers were added! Thankfully in 1987 the theatre was once again refurbished, this time by Carl Toms, and much of the original was restored.

The Cambridge Theatre opened on Thursday 4 September 1930 with Beatrice Lillie starring in the Ronald Jeans and Roland Leigh new two act revue Charlot's Masquerade since when productions here have been characterised by relatively short runs interspersed with several dark periods and the theatre was used for trade film shows in the late 1930s and again in 1969 as a cinema. The theatre went through a difficult patch in the mid-1980s. In May 1984 the impresario Charles Mather took a five year lease with the goal of renaming the theatre the Magic Castle and presenting spectacular 'Las Vegas-style' magic shows - he had also wanted to to change the facade to something resembling a set from a Walt Disney film. Though the first presentation called 'Magic Touch' opened in December 1984, the enterprise unfortunately collapsed soon afterwards. Use of the theatre was then complicated by the lease then being held on to by the bankers while there where extended negotiations to sell theatre between various holding companies. This meant that the theatre remained dark until November 1987 when the musical Peter Pan starring Lulu and George Cole opened for a limited Christmas season since when it has been in near continuous live theatrical use.

Amongst the short runs at the theatre, notable productions include Tommy Steele in Half a Sixpence in 1963 and in the late 1970s the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago run for 590 performances. More recently the 'rock'n'roll' musical Return to the Forbidden Planet which was based Shakespeare's The Tempest and used 1950s and 1960s songs opened in September 1989 and lasted until early 1993, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical - beating the favourite, Miss Saigon.


List of shows currently playing in London's West End

Architect: Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie
Opened: 4 September 1930
Listed: Grade II
Seats: 1,231 on 3 levels
Cambridge Theatre Show Archive
Street map
Seating plan

Current Show:

Matilda The Musical

Booking up to 29 May 2022