A Peek Inside London’s Newest Theatre – St James @ Victoria

Earlier today I was very fortunate to take a ‘hard hat’ tour of the nearly completed St James Theatre, just around the corner from Buckingham Palace and just down the street from Victoria station in London.

infographic st james theatre londonSurprisingly, the St James will be the first purpose-built theatre to be constructed in the capital for over 30 years. Designed by Foster Wilson architects, what at first glance appears to be simply the ground floor of a a newly constructed residential block at 12 Palace Street reveals itself to be something rather more special when you step inside. A dropped floor allows this space to house both a large bar and a restaurant on an upper level. Although its all bare concrete at the moment, I’m assured that the fine finishes planned for these spaces will make it a really special addition to Victoria’s current (and frankly fairly pedestrian) restaurant offering. The most notable feature of this street-facing space, which will be open to everyone not just theatre patrons, is the large public artwork stipulated by the local planning committee – a sculptured staircase by designer Mark Humphrey comprising around 6 tonnes of Italian marble…

While the public spaces promise to be impressive, what you’ll find as you venture deeper into the building is even more remarkable. The stage in the main auditorium (which will seat an audience of around 300) sits at the bottom of a steep rake some 20 feet or so below street level – although again this area is unfinished at the moment, wall coverings of dark oak panelling combined with plush aubergine-coloured seating and an ingenious lighting scheme will make this a very intimate performance space. That’s not all the venue has to offer either – behind the main stage is the ‘studio’, which is set aside for live music, comedy and cabaret and which will seat another 100 or so patrons. The artist’s impressions of this area rather remind me of the rather chic Pigalle club over in Piccadilly – as well as a ground floor area incorporating a bar at one end and a small stage at the other, an upper gallery on two sides provides areas where patrons can sit and watch the activity below…


The main stage at the St James Theatre

The artistic team at the St James Theatre comprises Creative Director and CEO, Robert Mackintosh with David Gilmore as Artistic Director. Several shows are already lined up for the theatre’s first season, which starts in September 2012 –  a new production of ‘Our Country’s Good’, the 18th century play by George Farquhar is  confirmed for Spring 2013. Ticket prices for performances in the main theatre are slated to be around £35, with tickets for most events in the studio priced at £10 to £15 for most events in the studio. Given the general feel of the venue and the pricing, its clear that the St James sees itself very much as a premium entertainment destination, and I do hope that the quality of the productions can match those high expectations. After all, £35 spent in the West End will secure you a good seat at Wyndhams for the ‘Kings’ Speech‘ or at the National witnessing Cillian Murphy’s masterful acting in ‘Misterman’. Gorgeous venue or otherwise, they must secure some impressive productions to justify those prices and to keep the audiences coming back for more – I have my fingers firmly crossed for their September opening!

The St James Theatre 'studio' space

Keep an eye out for news on the opening and the first season’s productions on the St James official website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

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About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time...