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Brutal ‘gutting’ plans for West End theatre must be halted

The fate of the Ambassadors Theatre, one of the smallest and most charming theatres in the West End, hangs in the balance following the submission by theatre-giants Delfont Mackintosh of an application for near-total demolition.

The Ambassadors Theatre

All but the façade (which would be upwardly extended) of the Grade II-listed building would be demolished should consent be granted, a terrible loss for London’s rich theatre history. The Victorian Society has formally objected to the plans and has contacted the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Savid Javid MP, requesting the application be called-in should consent be granted by Camden Council.

The Ambassadors Theatre was built in 1913 and is best known for its twenty-two year run of The Mousetrap. It stands as one of the greatest examples of work by highly accomplished theatre architect WGR Sprague who designed all of London’s notable turn-of-the-century theatres, though now only thirteen remain. It was purchased by Delfont Mackintosh in 2014, bringing their collection of London theatres up to nine, who wish to totally transform the Edwardian theatre to better accommodate modern performances.

Alex Bowring, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society, says, “The Ambassadors stands above Sprague’s other works for several reasons. Sprague packed the interiors with his usual flair but due to the theatre’s smaller size the result is particularly intense. It is also thanks to its small size that, until now, it has suffered only superficial redecorations and can be found today largely as it ever was. Furthermore, it is one of the last remaining historic theatres to still retain all its original rigging machinery, which is fully operational. The planning application in no way considers this, and what a great loss its removal would be to Edwardian theatre history.”

Demolition is by no means the only viable option for this theatre; for example, the possibility of this scheme to be applied to an alternative site has been largely unconsidered. Regrettably, our objections are not shared by Historic England or The Theatres Trust, both who broadly support the plans. As part of our campaign to save the Ambassadors, we have also submitted an application for the listing of the theatre to be upgraded to Grade II*, something which we believe it has long deserved.

Thursday 6 April

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Earlier item: Why we object to proposed reordering of listed Longthorpe church

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