A Rose By Any Other Name
Country Life UK|September 18, 2018
A Rose By Any Other Name

Why do we hold some theatre names in more affection than others?

Michael Billington

WHAT’S in a name? A great deal, judging by an extraordinary row that’s broken out in north London over the rechristening of the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn as the Kiln.

People have been picketing outside, demanding the restoration of the old name, but the artistic director, Indhu Rubasingham, backed by local actors such as Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton, fiercely denies that she’s disowning the refurbished theatre’s distinguished past. What is amazing, however, is the passion her decision has provoked.

Does it really matter what a theatre is called? Clearly it does, although it’s fair to point out that the majority of West End theatres have, at some point in their history, been renamed

The Adelphi Theatre in the Strand started life in 1806 as the Sans Pareil: a somewhat recondite name for a theatre that kicked off with a popular programme of songs, recitations and fireworks. The Duke of York’s was originally known as the Trafalgar Square Theatre and —I hope you’re still with me— the current Trafalgar Studios was, for many decades, the Whitehall Theatre and associated with trouser-dropping farce.

There have been more rechristenings in the West End than you’ll find in the last act of The Importance of Being Earnest. A classic case is the Prince Edward in Old Compton Street, which has reverted to its original name, at Cameron Mackintosh’s instigation, after long being known as the London Casino.

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September 18, 2018