The Saville Theatre

From Wikipedia:

“The theatre was designed by the architect Sir Thomas Bennett, in consultation with Bertie Crewe, and opened on 8 October 1931…”

From the database of the Theatres Trust:

“The Saville Theatre opened in 1931. It was steel-framed with mainly brick cladding, generally rectilinear in character, but with a striking facade to Shaftesbury Avenue. This has a channelled stone base, above which is a lively sculptural relief frieze, nearly 40m (130ft) long, by Gilbert Bayes, representing ‘Drama Through The Ages’. Above this is a moulded band and a blind, parapeted upper storey in channelled brickwork. The entrance is set in a giant arched opening (its original bronze glazed screen now gone) flanked at high level by ornamental plaques, by the same artist. The Bayes work has been described as ‘perhaps the most significant sculpture of the 1930s on a prominent building’. The interior was originally three tier. The large stalls bar, and a lounge had mural paintings by A R Thompson added to in 1995 by John Collins.

It is ironic that the Saville, possibly the most suitable of all the West End theatres for film exhibition, remained strictly for live performance until 1970. However, in that year it was acquired by EMI as a West End flagship for ABC, and was subdivided for twin cinemas resulting in the loss of the foyers and main auditorium space. The building was further divided into four screens in 2001.

Recent investigation carried out as a result of a 2018 planning application to convert the Saville into a hotel with basement cinema has shown that the significant elements of the existing theatre survive. This includes the stage house complete with its original grid and lantern, substantial parts of the outer walls and the original roof to the auditorium, the dressing room block and many of the original staircases. It is unknown how much of the original Art Deco decorative scheme may remain beneath the new fabric. The hotel scheme which would have resulted in the complete loss of the surviving interior of the building and destroyed any possibility of the Saville being returned to theatre use, was refused planning permission. The applicant subsequently took the case to appeal. Theatres Trust was a Rule 6 party at the Public Inquiry, and provided significant evidence as to the viability of the site as for theatre use and the demand for such use. The Covent Garden Community Association was also granted Rule 6 status, opposing the loss of the building and championing its return to theatre use.”

10 MAR 2021

Theatres Trust is delighted with a decision issued by the Planning Inspectorate following a Public Inquiry to dismiss two appeals relating to the Grade II listed former Saville Theatre in London’s West End. 

The building is currently used as a cinema by the Odeon and is part of the world-famous ‘Theatreland’ cluster.  Planning permission had been sought to convert the building into a hotel with a small ‘replacement’ cinema in the basement and had been refused by London Borough of Camden in 2019.

The Saville is considered by Theatres Trust to be an architecturally and culturally important building. It was designed by by TP Bennett and Son with input from notable theatre architect Bertie Crewe. The large frieze across its entire frontage by Gilbert Bayes depicting ‘Drama Through the Ages’ is considered to be one of the most important works of public sculpture of its time.”

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