Time Out says
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This intimate West End space is the place to go for straight drama
With its reliably good sight lines, comfy seats and smallish size, the Duchess Theatre can be counted on for one of the West End’s more pleasant theatre experiences. Today, it's making packed houses giggle with slapstick comedy 'The Play That Goes Wrong'. But this 500-seater playhouse has staged plenty of weighty dramas over the years – a possible hangover from its early years in the '30s, when author and playwright JB Priestley formed part of the Duchess management. Some of its most famous premieres include Priestley's own 'Laburnum Grove', celebrated poet T S Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral', Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker', and Peter Whelan's 'The Herbal Bed'.
But things haven't always been quite as classy. In the '70s, audiences got their jollies at 'The Dirtiest Show in Town' – the things people got up to before the internet, eh. This saucy revue was followed up by the comparatively classy but nonetheless thoroughly filthy 'Oh! Calcutta!', a nude show about sex that ran for six years. The Duchess Theatre also has the dubious distinction of hosting the West End's most disastrous ever show; after mass walk-outs, the 1930 entertainment 'The Intimate Revue' closed after just one night, citing technical problems.
Today, Duchess Theatre cuts a fine figure on out-of-the-way Catherine Street, with its 1929 modern gothic style facade highlighted with bright gold friezes. Inside, the carefully planned auditorium is split over two levels, with simple cream and gold decor. And its original features are preserved right down to the original '20s lift, which, thankfully, has been updated with 21st century machinery.
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