The press night of Joan Rivers: A Work In Progress By A Life In Progress last night (4 September) marked the start of the first season for newly launched London venue the Leicester Square Theatre.
Previously known as The Venue, the theatre, located on Leicester Place, to the north of Leicester Square, has undergone a £600,000 refurbishment before re-opening in its current form. The space now holds a 350-seat main auditorium, which includes bars on either side of the seating area, and a 90-seat basement space.
New owner Martin Witts, former proprietor of the Arts theatre, described the refurbishment of the Leicester Square Theatre as a “Challenge Annika experience”, and was still testing the air conditioning earlier this week, prior to Rivers’s opening night.
The Leicester Square Theatre’s inaugural season is a mixture of theatre and comedy. Rivers’s Edinburgh hit, a comic biographical tale set in Rivers’s Oscars dressing room, opens and closes the winter season, running from 29 August until 18 September and returning for dates in December and January.
A Work In Progress is followed in October by the revival of Blowing Whistles, a comedy about being gay, in love and online, which stars Paul Keating. The previously announced revival of Alex, starring Robert Bathurst as the cartoon investment banker, takes to the Leicester Square Theatre stage from 25 November.
During September and October, the new venue also plays host to The Big Joke, a comedy festival using both of the theatre’s auditoria to present a wide range of acts over two months. Among the comedians already announced are Roseanne Barr, Doug Stanhope, Roy Walker, Russell Howard, Reginald D Hunter and Josie Long.
At a press launch for the theatre prior to Rivers’s opening night, Witts described his delight at having negotiated a 30 year lease for the theatre with the landlords, the church which stands on top of the subterranean theatre. The church’s refugee centre is to receive a percentage of the box office profits, as will Footprints Respite Holiday House, a Kent home for sick and disabled children. The long lease, Witt’s said, gives him the opportunity to plan a long-term future for this new theatre.