L'événement culturel de l'été à Bruxelles!
Noel Coward Theatre
The Stalls section seats a large proportion of audience members in one large section with no aisles. Rows fan out from the stage, with longer rows towards the middle and rear. Seats towards the ends of these rows tend to fall outside the direct view of the stage and should be chosen only when discounted. Best seats in this section are from rows F - M, around the premium priced seats that offer little more than many other cheaper seats. Towards the rear of the section the overhang from above begins to restrict the view, which can cut off a considerable amount of the stage and set. The section is well raked however, and with a high stage, seats towards the back are often better than those at the front for a similar price. Seats in rows AA-B are too close to the stage and result in always looking up at the action. Seats feel comfortable on the whole with adequate legroom throughout. Rows P-T can feel rather detached, but the overhang does not feel low enough to ruin the performance.
The Royal Circle is divided into a main central section and two smaller side sections by two aisles. The whole section is wider than it is deep, meaning that views of the stage can be side on for those towards the ends of each aisle. The rake is good throughout the depth of the section, and the overhang from the Grand Circle does not begin until row F, not causing any problems even at the rear of the section. Rows F-H, although not bad seats, are not as good as other similarly priced seats in either the Grand Circle or the Stalls. They can feel quite far away from the action, and should be chosen last after selecting closer seats.
The side sections wrap around the curve of the circle providing a less direct view of the stage. The extremes of each side should be avoided as they can often be restricted Premium seats are not worth paying the extra, instead sit a row behind in row C for a fraction of the cost.
The Grand, or Upper Circle feels quite far away from the stage and offers a more disparate mix of seating options. Two slips run down the side of the section, providing side on views of the stage. Unless heavily discounted, these should not be taken. The remainder of the Grand Circle is wide and shallow, with only 7 rows of seats, of which the central rows are the best. The front row has limited leg room and suffers visually from the single metal bar that runs across the balcony. A double bar protects the end of each row, which can again cause significant issues. The overhang of the level above does not affect the view from any of the rows, so other than feeling quite far away from the action, seats in the rear Upper Circle do provide good value for money.
The balcony is 55 steps above street level and looks directly down onto the stage, far away from the action. Those who are scared of heights should not choose to sit here. The section is small with only 5 rows of seating, protected by a double metal bar running along the edge. Overall, the view is quite unrestricted, although towards the back the theatre's ceiling is in constant view. For a play, much of the action can be lost as you are simply too far from the stage. Select these seats only at face value or discount.
St Martin's Lane probably originated as a medieval field road extending from St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Strand in the south to St Giles-in-the-Flelds (close to the Shaftesbury Theatre) in the north. For 200 years from the early 17th century the rich and famous took up residence In grand houses, mainly on the west side of the Lane, in an enclave that attracted the great and the good of the arts world of Britain and Europe. They included Sir Joshua Reynolds, who became first President of the Royal Academy in 1768, and Louis Roubiliac, a French-born sculptor of extraordinary genius who set up his studio here in 1738. Along the east side, opposite to where the Albery now stands, were the premises of various craftsmen and artisans: Thomas Chippendale's workshop, now marked by a London County Council blue plaque, occupied a site here during the second half of the 18th century, manufacturing restrained rococo, Chinese and Gothic furniture for a demanding market. Avoiding excessive ornament In his designs, Chippendale relied on form and proportion to achieve his elegant effects, and had he been able to revisit St Martin’s Lane around 12 March 1903, when the New Theatre opened, he would have been pleased with what he saw.
On the west side of St Martin’s Lane, the theatre sits well between The Salisbury public house and the rebuilt Westminster County Court of 1908. Justice is no longer dispensed here, only food and drink: It is now Browns Restaurant. In 1899 Charles Wyndham and Mary Moore had opened Wyndham’s Theatre, fronting on to Charing Cross Road, but it was as Sir Charles - he was knighted in 1902 for services to the theatre - that Wyndham opened his New Theatre, built back-to-back with a bridge link to Wyndhams on land he had been forced to lease as part of his original deal with the Marquess of Salisbury. Had he been able to sell the ‘left-over’ plot, there would have been no New Theatre. The theatre’s name changed in 1973 to honour the memory of Sir Bronson Albery, son of James Albery and Mary Moore.
To design his first theatre Charles Wyndham had commissioned W. G. R. Sprague, and it was to the same architect that he turned to design the New - but In a rather more expansive mode, In collaboration with interior design consultant Claude Ponsonby. Consisting of three major bays, and three and four storeys In height, the Portland stone-faced building is a fine piece of eclectic free classical design, with the large central, slightly advanced bay, under a bold pediment and ornamented tympanum, flanked by balustraded parapets and ball finials on dies. The façade is articulated by giant Ionic pilasters extending through the first and second storeys, with an arcaded loggia at first-floor level fronting the grand-clrcle bar. The flank elevation is faced in white and brown glazed brick, with yellow stock brick to the rear. An original, and very pretty, cast-iron decorative bracketed canopy extends across the front of the building and, in a simplified form, down its side.
Fine polished timber entrance doors open on to an Interior of surprising sensitivity and almost domestic delicacy, contrasting with the correct classical form of the façade. Pale apricot, blue and gold bring to life a marble-floored Adamesque foyer. Corinthian pilasters support a simple cornice, the whole being dominated by a guilloche-circled celling. Emphasizing the room’s domestic character is a white marble chimneypiece with a sunburst central ornamental panel. Immediately above, the grand-clrcle bar with Its swagged wall decoration and deeply coved ceiling is amazingly generous on a restricted site, where every square foot of space within the auditorium has been allocated by careful planning.
The restrained Louis XVI auditorium is a joy. On a base colour of pale grey, gold highlighting has been used with an unusually light touch. Bombe-fronted balconies curve sinuously in varying forms, ornamented with beautiful painted panels, ormolu lamps and sconces. Three-tier stage boxes are formed within the reveal of the square proscenium arch, which is capped by relief figures representing music and peace. Completing the French flavour of the auditorium are portrait medallions of French kings and queens.
In 1924 a very young Sybil Thorndike packed the theatre with her portrayal of St Joan in George Bernard Shaw’s masterpiece. During the 1930s and 1940s John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier were regular performers here. Under Milk Wood was on stage in the mid-1950s and Oliver! in the 1960s. In the 1980s Children of a Lesser God and Willy Russell's Blood Brothers made a considerable Impact on London’s theatre audiences.
In 1920, Noël Coward became associated with the New Theatre, putting on a production of his play I Leave It To You. Almost nine decades later his memory was honoured in the renaming of the theatre.
1903. Theatre opens, designed by W. G. R. Sprague for Charles Wyndham and Mary Moore, and named the New Theatre / 1973. Renamed Albery Theatre / 2006. Renamed Noel Coward Theatre.
New Theatre / Albery Theatre
A theatre tightly planned with great skill on a restricted site / An uncommonly good Louis XVI interior.