Designed by Blow and Billerey, the Playhouse theatre opened on 11th March 1882 and is a Grade II listed building. It was extensively renovated in 1907, creating the building we see today.
The first theatre on the site was called the Royal Avenue theatre. It is rumoured that the land was bought in the hope that the owners of the nearby Charing Cross rail station would buy it to expand the rail station, but they didn't and the venue remains.
Tragedy struck in 1905 when a huge block of masonry fell through the roof during work on Charing Cross station, killing six women and injuring countless more. It didn't reopen until January 1907 when it was given its new name.
Somerset Maugham’s play Home and Beauty premiered at the Playhouse, as did Alec Guinness as in his stage debut in Libel. The theatre was the home of many a BBC radio programme, recorded in front of live audiences during the '50s, '60s and '70s. Some of the most notable programmes included Hancock's Half Hour, The Goon Show and Steptoe and Son. There was also a whole host of panel games recorded in the theatre and the Beatles and The Rolling Stones both made radio broadcasts from the stage.
Another major interior and exterior refurbishment took place in the early 1980s, restoring much of the faded 1907 design to its original beauty and opening in October 1987 with a double bill of plays, The Drums of Oudh and Toddles.
In 1991, the theatre became home to the Peter Hall company, which produced The Rose Tattoo starring Julie Walters. In 1996 the venue was brought by new owners, who gave the place a spring clean and installed modern conveniences. The theatre opened under its new ownership with the West End premiere of Anton Chekhov’s third full-length play, Wood Demon. However a vicious slaughtering by the critics closed it down after only two months.
The Royal Shakespeare Company set up shop at the theatre for a month in 2005, but nothing managed to stick for more than six months until La Cage Aux Folles in 2008, which ran for just over a year. The theatre’s next success came in 2010 with a production of Dreamboats and Petticoats, which managed to survive for just over two years. Following its demise, short run of The Mystery of Charles Dickens, starring Simon Callow, took to the stage, followed by the Monty Python musical comedy Spamalot.