New London Theatre

The first performance in The New London Theatre was a televised concert by Marlene Dietrich, recorded in November 1972.  It was always intended to be used as a theatre but initially it struggled to attract productions.  The most successful was Grease.  Thames realised it would make a very effective TV Theatre so they took it over between 1977 and 1980.  Cats was the musical that then took up residence, running from May 1981 until 2002.

The theatre is sited on the corner of Drury Lane and Parker St.  Its design is unique, with much of the stalls seating and part of the stage being on a huge revolve, enabling the staging configuration to be altered from show to show – or even during a performance.


In 1977 Thames TV began using the theatre on a regular basis using Marconi Mk VII cameras.  John O’Brien tells me that the OB truck they used was such a tight fit to get into the car park that it was put on trolley jacks and pushed in sideways.  Later, the racks area and production gallery were installed in the building but the aircon struggled to keep all the equipment cool.  I’m told it was not unheard of to let off a CO2 fire extinguisher on the racks of equipment just before a live transmission to cool everything down.

Thames used the New London for a range of variety shows and quiz shows such as Name That Tune.  It seems that they also shared the theatre with the BBC for some productions.  It was for example used for the Masters Snooker Championships between 1976 and 1978.  The BBC also used it for Sports Personality of the Year in 1977 and in August of the same year they staged the Song For Europe show here.  The notable thing about this show was that apparently it was blacked out due to industrial action.

In 1981 Thames moved its operation to the Royalty Theatre.


In August 2021 the theatre re-opened with the musical Cinderella, following an extensive refurbishment.  It was re-named the Gillian Lynne Theatre, after the choreographer of Cats – the longest running previous occupant of the theatre.