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This intimate, slightly down-at-heel theatre hosts a long-running West End chiller
Owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group since 2001, the Fortune has been the home of Susan Hill’s perenially popular lo-tech chiller ‘The Woman in Black’ for an astonishing three decades. The venue originally opened in 1924, on the site of a former tavern, and was the first London theatre to be built after the First World War. It played host to a mix of amateur and professional productions and was used by ENSA during the Second World War. Afterwards, it saw performances by variety acts such as Flanders and Swann and, later Beyond the Fringe, as well as musical comedies and thrillers.
Look closely at its facade and you'll see unusual renaissance-inspired friezes, of a historical lavishness that's continued inside: the entrancehall features the ominous Shakespeare inscription 'There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune'. These historical notes call back to the theatre that the Fortune is named for, an Elizabethan playhouse that burned down in 1621.
It’s a slightly shabby but particularly intimate and atmospheric venue that lends itself to Hill’s intrinsically theatrical ghost story with an enduring effectiveness. With only 432 seats, it's perfectly suited to a two-hander, letting audiences hang on the performers' every word. The stripped-down production is also a solid financial prospect for the theatre's owners, and the promise of some old-school chills has kept box office tills ringing since 1989.
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