Harold Pinter Theatre, formerly the Comedy Theatre until 2011, is a  West End theatre, and opened on Panton Street in the City of Westminster, on 15 October 1881, as the Royal Comedy Theatre. It was designed by Thomas Verity and built in just six months in painted ( stucco) stone and brick. By 1884 it was known as just the  Comedy Theatre. In the mid-1950s the theatre underwent major reconstruction and re-opened in December 1955; the auditorium remains essentially that of 1881, with three tiers of horseshoe-shaped balconies.
Early years: 1881–1900
The streets between Leicester Square and the Haymarket had been of insalubrious reputation until shortly before the construction of the Comedy Theatre, but by 1881 the "doubtful resorts of the roisterers" had been removed.
J. H. Addison held a plot of ground in Panton Street at the corner of Oxenden Street, for which he commissioned the architect  Thomas Verity to design a theatre. The builders were Kirk and Randall of Woolwich;  The original seating capacity was 1,186, comprising 140 stalls, 120 dress circle, 126 upper boxes, amphitheatre 100, pit 400 and gallery 300.  the construction was completed in six months. 
The theatre was, and remains, a three-tier house, its exterior in the classical tradition in painted (
stucco) stone and brick. The theatrical newspaper  described the interior as "Renaissance style, richly moulded and finished in white and gold. The draperies of the boxes are of maroon plush, elegantly draped and embroidered in gold". The Era It was originally planned to light the theatre by the new electric lighting, but for unspecified reasons this was temporarily abandoned, and the usual gas lighting was installed.  
The first lessee of the theatre, Alexander Henderson, who had worked with Verity on the design of the building, intended it to be the home of comic opera; at one time he had intended to call it the Lyric.
The theatre historians [n 2] Mander and Mitchenson write that the name he finally chose – the Royal Comedy – lacked any official approval for the use of "Royal", which was dropped within three years.  He assembled a strong team, including [n 3] Lionel Brough as stage director and Auguste van Biene as musical director.
The theatre opened on 15 October 1881 with
Edmond Audran's opéra comique in an English adaptation by La mascotte Robert Reece and H. B. Farnie.  La mascotte was followed by three more adaptations by Farnie: Suppé's , Boccaccio Planquette's (with Rip Van Winkle Fred Leslie as Rip) in 1882, and  Chassaigne's (with Falka Violet Cameron in the title role in 1884. The last of the series of operettas was  in 1885, Erminie which starred, among others,  Violet Melnotte, who became the lessee of the theatre in that year. She presented plays including The Silver Shield by Sydney Grundy; and Sister Mary by Wilson Barrett and Clement Scott (1886), and a season of comic operas in which she appeared herself.
Melnotte sub-let the theatre in 1887 to
Herbert Beerbohm Tree – his first venture into management – who presented and co-starred with Marion Terry in The Red Lamp by Outram Tristram. The following year the sub-lessee was  Charles Hawtrey, who ran the theatre until 1892 and produced Jane (1890) and many farces described by Mander and Mitchenson as "now-forgotten".
J. Comyns Carr took over the management of the theatre. He remained in charge for three years, producing among other plays Sowing the Wind by Sydney Grundy (1893); The Professor's Love Story by J. M. Barrie, (1894); The New Woman by Grundy (1894); and The Benefit of the Doubt by A. W. Pinero (1895). The resident stars of the house in this period were Cyril Maude and his wife Winifred Emery. Hawtrey resumed the management in a play of his own, Mr Martin, in which he co-starred with Lottie Venne. which he followed with a successful season of light comedies.   William Greet took over the theatre in 1898 and presented Arthur Roberts and Ada Reeve in a musical comedy Milord Sir Smith with music by Edward Jakobowski. The major productions of 1899 were  A Lady of Quality by Francis Hodgson Burnett, and Great Caesar by George Grossmith Jr. and Paul Rubens, with Willie Edouin, Grossmith and Reeve.
In the early years of the 20th century the Comedy was often used for special seasons and matinée performances of avant garde plays.
Frank Benson and his company, which included Lilian Braithwaite and Oscar Asche, played a Shakespeare season in 1901. In 1902  Lewis Waller presented an adaption of which ran for 430 performances. Monsieur Beaucaire
Fred Terry and Julia Neilson played in Sunday for a run of 129 performances. The following year  Charles Frohman presented John Barrymore in his first London appearance in The Dictator. In 1906 John Hare presented a short season, appearing in The Alabaster Staircase, and a revival of A Pair of Spectacles. Other productions in the first decade of the century included with Raffles Gerald du Maurier in the title role (1906), which ran for 351 performances; 1907, a series of six dramas by  Somerset Maugham and others starring Marie Tempest (1907–1909); and  Marie Löhr in Pinero's Preserving Mr Panmure (1911). The final production to open before the First World War was , with Peg o' My Heart Laurette Taylor, which ran for 710 performances.
In 1915 the Comedy followed the fashion for
revue, presenting Albert de Courville's Shell Out! (1915), C. B. Cochran's Half-past Eight (1916), and four successive revues by André Charlot: This and That and See-Saw! (1916), and Bubbly and Tails Up (1918. They all ran well, most particularly the last two, which ran for 429 and 467 performances respectively.
The theatre was notable for the role it played in overturning stage
censorship by establishing the New Watergate Club in 1956, under producer Anthony Field. The  Theatres Act 1843 was still in force and required scripts to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. Formation of the club allowed plays that had been banned due to language or subject matter to be performed under "club" conditions.
Plays produced in this way included the UK premières of
Arthur Miller's , A View from the Bridge Robert Anderson's and Tea and Sympathy Tennessee Williams' . Cat On A Hot Tin Roof The law was not revoked until 1968, but in the late 1950s there was a loosening of conditions in theatre censorship, the club was dissolved and  Peter Shaffer's premièred to a public audience. Five Finger Exercise
The theatre was
Grade II listed by English Heritage in June 1972.
On 7 September 2011 it was announced that the theatre's owner,
Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) would be renaming the Comedy Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre from Thursday 13 October 2011.
Howard Panter, Joint Chief Executive and Creative Director of ATG, told the BBC: "The work of Pinter has become an integral part of the history of the Comedy Theatre. The renaming of one of our most successful West End theatres is a fitting tribute to a man who made such a mark on British theatre and who, over his 50-year career, became recognised as one of the most influential modern British dramatists."
Recent and present productions
(22 February 2006 – 15 April 2006) by Steptoe and Son in Murder at Oil Drum Lane Ray Galton and John Antrobus 
(9 May 2006 – 15 December 2006) by Donkeys' Years Michael Frayn, starring Samantha Bond, David Haig, Mark Addy and James Dreyfus 
(4 January 2007 – 29 January 2007) by The Rocky Horror Show Richard O'Brien, starring David Bedella and Suzanne Shaw
(15 February 2007 – 5 January 2008) by Boeing-Boeing Marc Camoletti, starring Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Elena Roger, Mark Rylance, Daisy Beaumont, Tamzin Outhwaite, Amy Nuttall, Rhea Perlman, Jean Marsh, Jennifer Ellison, Tracey-Ann Oberman and Kevin McNally 
The Lover/ The Collection (29 January 2008 – 3 May 2008) by Harold Pinter, starring Timothy West, Gina McKee, Charlie Cox and Richard Coyle 
Dickens Unplugged (9 June 2008 – 29 June 2008) by Adam Long 
(15 December 2008 – 30 May 2009) by Sunset Boulevard Andrew Lloyd Webber, directed by Craig Revel Horwood 
(24 July 2009 – 8 August 2009), world premiere of a new musical about Too Close to the Sun Ernest Hemingway 
(30 September 2009 – 6 December 2009) by Prick Up Your Ears Simon Bent, starring Matt Lucas and Chris New 
(17 December 2009 – 13 March 2010) by The Misanthrope Moliere, starring Keira Knightley, Damian Lewis, Tara Fitzgerald and Dominic Rowan 
(25 March 2010 – 19 June 2010) by Mrs Warren's Profession George Bernard Shaw, starring Felicity Kendal 
(7 July 2010 – 4 September 2010) by La Bête David Hirson, starring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley 
(28 September 2010 – 15 January 2011) based on the book by Birdsong Sebastian Faulks, starring Ben Barnes 
The Children's Hour (9 February 2011 – 7 May 2011) by Lillian Hellman, starring Keira Knightley 
(16 June 2011 – 20 August 2011) by Betrayal Harold Pinter, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles 
(24 October 2011 – 21 January 2012) by Death and the Maiden Ariel Dorfman starring Thandie Newton, Tom Goodman-Hill and Anthony Calf 
(9 February 2012 – 14 April 2012) by Absent Friends Alan Ayckbourn, starring Reece Shearsmith, Kara Tointon and Elizabeth Berrington 
and South Downs (24 April 2012 – 21 July 2012) by The Browning Version Terence Rattigan, starring Nicholas Farrell, Anna Chancellor and Alex Lawther
(27 September 2012 – 5 January 2013) by A Chorus of Disapproval Alan Ayckbourn, starring Rob Brydon, Nigel Harman and Ashley Jensen 
(31 January 2013 – 6 April 2013) by Old Times Harold Pinter, starring Rufus Sewell, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lia Williams 
(7 August 2013 – 19 October 2013) by Chimerica Lucy Kirkwood, starring Claudie Blakley and Stephen Campbell Moore 
(13 November 2013 – 8 February 2014) by Mojo Jez Butterworth, starring Brendan Coyle, Rupert Grint and Ben Whishaw 
(14 April 2014 – 21 June 2014) by Relative Values Noël Coward, starring Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin and Rory Bremner 
(17 July 2014 – 20 September 2014) by The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde, starring Siân Phillips, Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis 
(28 October 2014 – 29 October 2016) Sunny Afternoon 
(25 November 2016 – 11 February 2017) by Nice Fish Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins, starring Mark Rylance 
(9 March 2017 – 27 May 2017) by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee, starring Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill 
(15 June 2017 – 2 September 2017) by Hamlet William Shakespeare, starring Andrew Scott 
(11 October 2017 – 30 December 2017) by Oslo J. T. Rogers, starring Toby Stephens and Lydia Leonard 
(18 January 2018 – 14 April 2018) by The Birthday Party Harold Pinter, starring Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan and Zoe Wanamaker 
(29 May 2018 – 11 August 2018) by Consent Nina Raine, starring Adam James, Stephen Campbell Moore and Claudie Blakley 
Ian McKellen On Stage: Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others and You (20 September 2019 – 5 January 2020) starring Ian McKellen (23 January 2020 – 2 May 2020) by Uncle Vanya Anton Chekhov, adapted by Conor McPherson, starring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage
Pinter at the Pinter season
Notes, references and sources
^ The delay did not affect the Comedy's chance of being the first theatre in London (or anywhere else) to be lit by electricity, as that distinction had already been won by the
Savoy, which opened five days before the Comedy. 
London theatre of that name was not built until 1888. 
^ There was a royal connexion of sorts: the
Prince of Wales was in the audience on the opening night. 
^ a b
"Harold Pinter has London theatre named after him", BBC News, 7 September 2011, accessed 8 September 2011.
^ a b c d e
English Heritage listing details accessed 28 April 2007.
^ a b Mander and Mitchenson, p. 67
^ a b "The Royal Comedy Theatre",
The Morning Post, 11 October 1881, p. 2
^ a b c "The New Comedy Theatre",
The Era, 15 October 1881, p. 5
^ a b c Mander and Mitchenson, p. 48
^ a b "The Comedy Theatre",
Pall Mall Gazette, 17 October 1881, p. 11
^ a b c d Mander and Mitchenson, p. 49
Falka at The Comedy", The Era, 23 February 1884, p. 9
^ "Comedy Theatre",
The Standard, 10 November 1885, p. 5
^ "The London Theatres",
The Era, 23 April 1887, p. 14
^ "Comedy Theatre",
The Morning Post, 5 October 1896, p. 3
^ "Milord Sir Smith",
The Era, 17 December 1898, p. 14
^ "New Plays and Important Revivals",
The Era Almanack, 1900, p. 4
^ "Comedy Theatre",
The Times, 17 January 1901, p.3
^ Parker, p. 1209
^ Parker, p. 1214
^ Parker, p. 1212
^ Mander and Mitchenson, p. 50
^ Parker, p. 1198
^ Parker, pp. 12011 and 1214
accessed 16 October 2007. Interview with Anthony Field CBE 14 March, 2007(The Theatre Archive Project, British Library)
Paul Ibell. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009: p. 205 Theatreland: A Journey Through the Heart of London's Theatre.
The Harold Pinter Theatre history accessed 8 September 2011.
ATG renames Comedy Theatre after Harold Pinter, Official London Theatre, 7 September 2011, accessed 31 October 2017.
^ Billington, Michael.
"Steptoe and Son in Murder at Oil Drum Lane", The Guardian, 10 May 2006
^ Billington, Michael.
"Donkey's Years", The Guardian, 23 February 2006
"Boeing-Boeing, Comedy, London | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Theatre review: The Lover/The Collection / Comedy Theatre, London | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Theatre review: Dickens Unplugged / Comedy, London | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Theatre review: Sunset Boulevard / Comedy, London | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Theatre review: Too Close to the Sun | Comedy Theatre, London | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Prick Up Your Ears | Theatre review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"The Misanthrope | Theatre review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Behud/Mrs Warren's Profession/Enchanted Palace | Theatre review | Stage". The Guardian. 16 May 2019 . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Review | Theatre | La Bête | Comedy Theatre | London | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Birdsong | Comedy, London | Review | Michael Billington | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"The Children's Hour - review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
^ Official Comedy Theatre website. "Ambassador Theatre Group's AmbassadorTickets.com", accessed 24 June 2011.
] dead link
^ Official theatre website.
"www.haroldpintertheatre.co.uk", accessed 8 September 2011.
"Absent Friends - review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"A Chorus of Disapproval – review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Old Times - review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Chimerica – review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Mojo – review | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
Matt Trueman. "Theatre Royal Bath announces 2014 summer season | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"The Importance of Being Earnest review – trivialises sublime Wilde | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Sunny Afternoon review: a heady celebration of the Kinks and Ray Davies | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Nice Fish review – Mark Rylance reels them in with kooky comedy | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? review – Staunton ignites Albee's marital battle | Stage". The Guardian . Retrieved . 26 September 2019
Kellaway, Kate (25 June 2017). "Hamlet review – an all-consuming marvel". The Guardian.
Billington, Michael (18 September 2017). "Oslo review – the political gets personal as tense peace talks are given epic sweep". The Guardian.
Billington, Michael (18 January 2018). "The Birthday Party review – Pinter's cryptic classic turns 60 with a starry cast". The Guardian.
Haynes, Natalie (29 May 2018). "Consent review – bracingly clever courtroom drama". The Guardian.
^ a b Billington, Michael.
"Pinter at the Pinter review", The Guardian, 28 September 2018
^ a b c d e
Brown, Mark (10 May 2018). "West End theatre to show all one-act plays by Harold Pinter in London season". The Guardian.
Billington, Michael (14 March 2019). "Betrayal review – Hiddleston is superb in haunting drama of deception". The Guardian.
Mander, Raymond; Joe Mitchenson (1961). The Theatres of London. London: Rupert Hart-Davis. OCLC 221877906. Parker, John (ed) (1925). Who's Who in the Theatre (fifth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. OCLC 10013159. CS1 maint: extra text: authors list ( link)