Theatre Royal Drury Lane antique theatre playbill. “This Evening, Saturday October 11th, 1834. Their Majesties’ Servants will perform Shakespeare’s play of The MERCHANT of VENICE.” A rare example of a theatre playbill printed in two colours.
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England. The building faces Catherine Street (earlier named Bridges or Brydges Street) and backs onto Drury Lane. The building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dated back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. The first theatre on the site was built at the behest of Thomas Killigrew in the early 1660s, when theatres were allowed to reopen during the English Restoration. Initially known as “Theatre Royal in Bridges Street”, the theatre’s proprietors hired prominent actors who performed at the theatre on a regular basis, including Nell Gwyn and Charles Hart. In 1672, the theatre caught fire and Killigrew built a larger theatre on the same plot, renamed the “Theatre Royal in Drury Lane”; it opened in 1674. This building lasted nearly 120 years, under the leaderships of Colley Cibber, David Garrick and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the last of whom employed Joseph Grimaldi as the theatre’s resident Clown. In 1791, under Sheridan’s management, the building was demolished to make way for a larger theatre which opened in 1794. This new Drury Lane survived for 15 years before burning down in 1809. The building that stands today opened in 1812.