The Little Theater in Haymarket was one of the more prominent venues in London during the latter half of the 18th century. Built and opened in 1720, the “Little” Theater, so it was called to distinguish it from the larger King’s opera house located nearby, was originally designated as a playhouse for French performers.2 Its proprietor John Potter obtained permission for its construction from the Lord Chamberlain Thomas Pelham with the help of the influential Duke of Montagu.1
True to its name the Little Theater’s original measurements were 48 feet wide and 136 feet long. It was reported to be at least three stories, with a basement, a gallery and several small shops in the front of the building.1 The seating arrangement, like most theaters during this time, consisted of long benches with no backs.2 Because of this the Little Theater could seat anywhere from 600 to almost 1500 patrons.1 Performance during the hot summer months required that their be a ventilation system to allow fresh air into the theater.2 Unlike other theaters in London, the Little Theater was not adorned with elaborately painted ceilings or walls.2 The Little Theater would undergo many changes during its hundred years as an entertainment venue, including three remodeling projects between 1739 and 1760 and an almost complete rebuilding in 1767.1
To better understand the success of the Little Theater, an overview of the summer theatrical seasons that began in the Restoration period is necessary. Before the Interregnum period in England, theaters in London operated nearly year round, and did not specify the “summer season” as a separate part of the theatrical year.1 When Charles II reinstate...
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... lost some of its popularity due to some tensions between the members of the company that had affected performance.1 Colman decided to separate himself altogether from the Haymarket Company, and in 1820 the Little Theater was abandoned for the company’s new location at what is now the present day Theatre Royal, Haymarket. The last performance held at the Little Theater was on October 14, 1820.1
1. Burling, William J. Summer Theatre in London, 1661-1820, and the Rise of the Haymarket Theater. (New Jersey: Associated University Press, 2000), 21-215.
2. Hogan, Charles Beecher. The London Stage, 1776-1800: A
Critical Introduction. (Illinois: Southern Illinois University
Press, 1968), xliii, xlvii.
3. Stephen, Leslie and Sidney Lee, eds. The Dictionary of
National Biography. (London: Oxford University Press, 1921), 424.
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