At the end of the 17th century, there was only one working
theatre and one company of actors in London, the United
Company, who had been given a monopoly on performing
plays by Charles II. The group of actors who split from
the United Company in 1695 faced a number of problems,
even with the support of Congreve and Vanbrugh, who built
them a new theatre. Read how Her Majesty's Theatre created its
own identity and survived to become a major venue in the 21st century.
Later theatres that opened in London without
distinguished patronage had an even harder struggle to survive. The Alhambra, forbidden to perform plays, staged performances ranging from circus to grand ballet, and became one of the most popular theatres in Europe.
By the mid-19th century, theatre-going and theatre-building were booming. Read about the theatres of the Strand that became part of the Victorian landscape, only to be demolished in street redevelopments at the turn of the century.
The theatres that grew up in London after the Restoration had one major difference from earlier playhouses: the new role of women, as performers, writers and managers. Peg Woffington was one such woman, who rose from poverty to star opposite David Garrick. Hear her story below.