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Fortune Theatre

  • Theatre
  • Covent Garden
© Susie Rea

Time Out says

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.


Russell Street
Tube: Covent Garden/Holborn
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What’s on

Operation Mincemeat

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Musicals

SplitLip’s delightful spoof WW2 musical has been heading inexorably for the West End for something like five years now. It’s a fringe theatre comet that’s gathered mass and momentum via seasons at the New Diorama, Southwark Playhouse and Riverside Studios, and has now made impact in Theatreland – wiping out a West End dinosaur to boot, as it displaces ‘The Woman in Black’ after over 30 years at the Fortune Theatre. And it’s really hard to be anything but delighted for the company, which consists of David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Robert. All bar Hagan perform in the show, with Claire Marie Hall and Jak Malone rounding out the cast. This is very much their triumph. And though it’s been redirected for the West End by Robert Hastie, ‘Operation Mincemeat’ is at heart the same show it always was. There are no added backing dancers or bombastic reorchestrations. It’s slicker and bigger in its way, but still feels endearingly shambolic where it counts. It’s a very larky account of the World War 2 Operation Mincemeat, a ploy from British intelligence to feed the German army disinformation via a briefcase of false war plans strapped to a corpse that they hoped to pass off as a downed British pilot (yes, there was a recent film with exactly the same name, about exactly the same thing, and yes they do make a joke about this). The story centres on Charles Cholmondeley (Cumming), the socially inept MI5 operative who dreams up the plan, and Ewen Montague (Hodgson), the

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