The St Martin’s Theatre opened on 23 Nov. 1916. The building was designed by W. G. R. Sprague as a pair with the Ambassadors Theatre. The theatres were commissioned by Richard Verney and Bertie Meyer. The theatre was due to open at the same time as the Ambassadors Theatre in 1913 but due to the outbreak of WWI, construction was delayed.
The theatre opened with a production of Houp La!, an Edwardian musical comedy produced by Charles B. Cochran, the famous impresario. The critics were kind to the show, but audiences didn’t take to it as much and the show closed after a three month run. Cochran however held the least of the building for 21 years and produced several hit plays throughout his tenure, including R.U.R by Karel Čapek, and Lynn Starling’s Meet the Wife in 1927.
Bertie Meyer took over management of the theatre from Cochran, and in 1967 Meyer’s son Ricky became administrator for the theatre for the next twenty years. He was the man responsible for transferring the theatre’s current tenant, The Mousetrap, from the next door Ambassador Theatre to the larger St Martin’s, to continue its record-breaking run. The production began in 1952 and has been performed on the London stage ever since.
In recent years the theatre has been extensively refurbished, both internally and externally. The façade of the theatre has been restored to its original state, with a replica of the original canopy being constructed in 1998. Internally, all the seats have been reupholstered and the walls have been lined with silk wallpaper.
The auditorium has three levels - Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle.
Although the Dress Circle overhangs the Stalls at Row J the obstruction does not block anything of importance in The Mousetrap. All seats in the Stalls have a good view of the stage.
The overhang of the Upper Circle doesn’t affect the view from any seat in the Dress Circle. The legroom at this level is not very good, Row A particularly suffering.
Whilst the Upper Circle does not feel far from the stage, the view from the first two rows is impaired by a safety bar running along the front.
Location: West End Railway station: Charing Cross Bus numbers: (Shaftesbury Avenue) 14, 19, 38; (Charing Cross Road) 14, 19, 38, 24, 29, 176 Night bus numbers: (Shaftesbury Avenue) 14, N5, N19, N20, N38, N41; (Charing Cross Road) 14, 24, 176, N5, N19, N29, N38, N41, N279 Car park: St Martin's Lane Hotel (4mins) Directions from tube: (5mins) Take Cranbourn Street away from Leicester Square until St Martin’s Lane, where you head left up to West Street. The theatre’s at the right of the fork.