The Cambridge Theatre opened in 1930, one of five theatres to open in London that year, including the nearby Prince Edward Theatre and Phoenix Theatre. Designed by Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie, the theatre occupies a triangular site on Seven Dials near Covent Garden and has interior designs by Serge Chermayeff and Anthony Gibbons Grinling, who sculpted the friezes still seen today. It is one of the most attractive interiors in the West End, having undergone restoration in 1987 after a series of internal changes.
A good sized house, the Cambridge Theatre suits musicals very well, though many plays have played the venue and it was opened with a production of Masquerade, a revue type show by André Charlot which starred Beatrice Lillie.
The original décor, ornate gold and silver finishes inspired by German theatres, was painted over in red in 1950 and the lighting was augmented with candelabras and chandeliers. These changes were implemented by new owners Tom Arnold and Prince Littler. Another conversion of the theatre in 1984 saw the house become London’s first theatre for magic called ‘The Magic Castle of Seven Dials’. The scheme was a disaster and closed after a year of performances. The theatre was then bought by Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd in 1986 and under the supervision of Carl Toms was restored to its original décor.
Listed as a Grade II building in 1999, the building became part of the Really Useful Group Ltd portfolio of theatres and has remained such since. Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered his latest musical here in 2000 (The Beautiful Game), and the house has gone from strength to strength with its productions of musicals ever since, with the controversial Jerry Springer – The Opera in 2003, the transfer of Chicago from the Adelphi Theatre in 2006. Matilda opened at the Cambridge Theatre in November 2011, where it continues to run today.
The auditorium has three levels – Stalls, Royal Circle and Grand Circle.
The Stalls is not affected by the overhang from the Royal Circle, but the rake is rather shallow which may cause some issues with sightlines.
The Royal Circle is set rather far back, and with a shallow rake in the seats the audience seated here may feel detached from the action. The overhang of the Grand Circle is obvious from Row G onwards.
The Grand Circle is steeply raked which offers good sightlines but does feel far from the stage.