Liam Rudden: Small theatre, big talent

Robert  Lindsay. Pic: Comp
Robert Lindsay. Pic: Comp
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IT never ceases to amaze me just how small West End theatres are, even those with the largest of reputations - venues such as The Savoy, with its modest 1150 capacity and spacious auditorium. It was there, last Friday, that I watched a laugh-out-loud performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. But more of that later.

Like many London theatres, The Savoy has limited front-of-house space, from a bijou foyer with box office squeezed into a space the equivalent of a Playhouse broom cupboard, you descend to a bar area, where no more than two staff can comfortably serve at any one time.

A pop up Champagne bar eases the congestion for refreshments.

Backstage too, is an incredibly tight warren of stairwells and corridors, all dropping into the bowels of the building.

It’s very atmospheric, truth be told. You can almost smell the history, sense the ghosts, and imagine the flicker of the limelight - despite the fact that The Savoy was the first public building in the UK to be fully fitted with electric lighting.

Surprisingly, despite the tight squeeze, the one time home of Gilbert & Sullivan is by no means the smallest of West End theatres. The average capacity of many may be just over the 1000 mark, but more than a handful hold between just 450 and 750. St Martin’s Lane Theatre, home to the longest running show in the world, The Mousetrap, for example, only has 550 seats.

Suddenly, The Playhouse, Festival Theatre, and Kings’s seem like arenas by comparison.

It’s to the Playhouse that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tours in September. With 3039 seats to fill, the Greenside Place venue has the largest capacity theatre auditorium in the UK.

If anything can fill it, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the show. Just keep your fingers crossed the West End cast, including the brilliant Robert Lindsay, star of Get Some In, Citizen Smith, and My Family, come with it.