The Duke of York’s theatre opened on 10 September 1892. Initially called the Trafalgar Square, the name was shortened to Trafalgar in 1894 and the following year it became the Duke of York’s to honour the future King George V. In 1900, Jerome K Jerome’s Miss Hobbs was staged here as well as David Belasco’s Madame Butterfly, which was seen by Puccini, who later turned it into what is probably his most famous opera; it was ultimately performed at the Duke of York’s in 1932 by the Carl Rosa Opera Company.
In the late 1970s the freehold of the theatre was purchased by Capital Radio and it closed in 1979 for refurbishment. It reopened in February 1980 and the first production under the aegis of Capital Radio was Rose, starring Glenda Jackson. Other successes include Al Pacino’s award-winning performance in David Mamet’s American Buffalo, Richard Harris’ comedy Stepping Out, directed by Julia Mackenzie and Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine.
The Ambassador Theatre Group bought the theatre in 1992 coinciding with The Royal Court’s production of Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden. A host of successes followed including Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, a sellout run of Stones In His Pockets, Stephen Poliakoff’s Sweet Panic, Michael Hastings’ Calico, The Holy Terror by Simon Gray, Dirty Blonde by Claudia Shear, Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser starring Nicholas Lyndhurst and Julian Glover and most recently Richard Eyre’s production of Hedda Gabler starring Eve Best.