Novello Theatre (originally the Waldorf Theatre). Designed by W.G.R. Sprague (whom Pevsner and Bradley describe as an “expert theatre designer”). 1905. Aldwych, London. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The theatre's own site explains:

when it opened, was part of the major redevelopment then taking place in this area of London. Sprague was also the architect for the Novello's 'twin', the Aldwych Theatre, at the other end of the block. He gave the Novello a classic facade made of Portland stone, leading to a Louis XIV style interior, richly decorated with marble and gilt. Cream and rose du Barry were the predominant colours with fleur de péche marble pilasters in the dress and upper circles. It was the last three-tier theatre to be built in London and the second to be constructed without a raked stage. Sprague always paid great attention to detail as can still be seen today in the decorative panels and friezes around the theatre and in such features as the intricately patterned brass fingerplates.

The first lessees of the Waldorf Theatre were the Shubert brothers who already owned or managed some 20 theatres in America and were making their first foray into the European theatrical world. The theatre opened with an 8-week season of opera and drama starring the actress Eleanora Duse and the well-known opera singers Emma Calve and Edouard de Reszke. It was a grand opening, but neither this season nor subsequent ones were a success. Indeed, it was not until November 1913 that the theatre, now renamed the Strand, had its first long run. This was of an Anglo-Chinese play called Mr Wu starring the matinee idol Matheson Lang as Wu Li Chang. It was to become his most famous role on both stage and screen and he later titled his memoirs, Mr Wu Looks Back.

The theatre's architectural sculpture

Photographs by Robert Freidus. Text, formatting, and perspective correction by George P. Landow. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Bradley, Simon, and Nikolaus Pevsner. London 6: Westminster. “The Buildings of England.” New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.

History of the Novello Theatre. Delfont Macintosh Theatres. Web. 13 July 2013.

Last modified 13 July 2013