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The Rt Hon Lord Willoughby de Broke
My grandfather, the 19th Baron, who was responsible for the construction of St Martin's Theatre, was known more for his interest in hunting and politics-he was a vigorous opponent of the reform of the House of Lords - than in the theatre. He had in fact a taste for the footlights which had been nurtured at an early age through amateur theatricals at Compton Verney, the family seat in Warwickshire, and later developed during the time he spent in London, both as an MP for Rugby, and as a member of the House of Lords. Indeed it was always his intention to devote a chapter of his delightful autobiography "The Passing Years" to Drama; sadly he died before he was able to complete the book, which was finished by another hand; the chapter on the theatre was perforce omitted.
His interest was translated into action when in association with B.A.(Bertie) Meyer, later to become manager and licensee of the theatre, he commissioned the well known theatre architect W.G.R.Sprague to design the St Martin's. Originally intended to be one of a pair with the adjacent Ambassadors which opened in 1913, the St Martin's debut was delayed by the outbreak of the Great War: the first performance, of Houpla, billed as a comedy with music, took place on 23rd November 1916.
In the years since its opening the St Martin's has staged plays by John Galsworthy, Frederick Lonsdale and Noel Coward amongst others. Notable successes in the post war years include Hugh Williams' "The Grass is Greener", John Mortimer's "The Wrong Side of the Park" and the record-breaking thriller "Sleuth". The Mousetrap transferred to the St Martin's in March 1974; There is no need here to elaborate on its phenomenal success. When the theatre was built it was described as 'giving the impression of being a private theatre provided by some patron of the dramatic art for the entertainment of his friends'. While it would be stretching a point to describe any theatre owner in these difficult days as a 'patron', it is certainly true to say that the family commitment to the St Martin's is total; we are proud of our unbroken connection with the theatre, and the continuity that we have brought to its management. Bertie Meyer, who was so closely involved in the St Martin's in the early days, ran the theatre intermittently from 1916 to 1967, when his son R.A.(Ricky) took over.
Ricky was the administrator for twenty years until his retirement in 1987; he remained our invaluable consultant, until his death in 1991. We all look forward to many more years of our successful association with The Mousetrap in what I believe is the capital's most attractive small theatre.
The St. Martin's Today
Following the extensive interior refurbishment over the last few years the St Martin's has recently undergone a major exterior refurbishment. The outside has been restored to its former glory.
A replica of the original 1916 canopy was constructed in Cheshire and put in place in February 1998. The whole of the exterior has been repaired and repainted.
This beautiful building is one of the few West End theatres that is still privately owned. If it were a car it would be very saleable indeed: One owner, full service history, excellent runner, lovingly restored, immaculate inside and out!
This is the auditorium of St Martin's today. All woodwork has been restored, silk wallpaper has been hung throughout the auditorium and the seats are all newly upholstered. The stage curtains (or "house tabs" as they are known in the trade!), were also replaced along with the Willoughby de Broke family coat of arms.
The longest running show, of any kind, in the world.
Tickets are on sale now at prices from £17.50 to £47.50 with premium seats available at £65.00 to £67.50.
Performances are Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm.
Matinee performances at 3.00pm on Tuesday and 4.00pm on Saturday.