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The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane


The Theatre Royal is actually situated on Catherine Street with its back on Drury Lane. It is often referred to as the Drury Lane Theatre and this is actually the fourth theatre to be built upon this site. The first was built under the Royal Charter of King Charles II and opened on 7th May 1663. It was built by a dramatist called Thomas Killigrew and after surviving the Great Fire of London in 1666, if burnt down in 1672. The second theatre was built by Sir Christopher Wren and opened in 1674. It lasted considerably longer and was demolished in 1791. The third incarnation was opened in 1794 and known as the ‘Fireproof Theatre' until it burned down in 1809. The current theatre was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and opened in 1812.

The ghost is often referred to as the Man in Grey and is generally seen in the auditorium during daylight hours. Apart from having a sword he is described as wearing a cloak, powered wig and a tricorn hat. See the figure is considered to be a lucky omen for actors about to perform as it is meant to ensure great success.

The Man in Grey tends to be linked to a skeleton that was found by workmen doing renovations. Sources differ as too when these took place, covering a time period from the1970's to the mid 1800's. The skeleton was wearing the remains of a riding coat and in his chest was a knife. It is believed that this person was killed in the 1700's.

The ghost of the comedian Dan Leno (George Wild Galvin 1860-1904) was seen by Stanley Lupino (1893-1942). He was in his dressing room after being on stage and heard some curtains being drawn back. When he looked in the mirror he saw his own face and that of Dan Leno. Stanley and a caretaker were the only people in the theatre at that time and the dressing room had been a favorite of Mr Leno. Dan Leno is buried in Lambeth cemetery.


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Ian Topham
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Re: The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

According to the author Andrew Green: 'The list of famous personalities who have seen the apparition is noteworthy. During the 1960's Harry Secombe and his dresser saw 'the figure of a tall man in a grey cloak'and later, after the performance of 'The Four Musketeers', Harry claimed that, 'The whole ruddy cast saw him once'. Some ten years earlier, W. Macqueen Pope stated that, 'On one occasion it was seen by over 150 people, all at the same time, but another 100 who were present at the performance saw nothing at all. This is how it goes'. Doreen Duke when auditioning for 'The King and I'received a friendly pat on the back by an unseen force, and Betty Jo Jones, when playing in 'Oklahoma'felt a tug at her skirts and was gently pushed downstage to a new, and better position. Stanley Lupino and his wife saw the apparition of another of the phantoms resident in the building, that of Dan Leno and the third ghost is believed to be of Joe Grimaldi, though I would have expected him to appear at Sadlers Wells where he made his first appearance. The identity of the man in grey, described as wearing 'a long grey riding coat, knee breeches, buckled shoes and a three-cornered hat over a powdered wig'has never been established though some believe him either to be Arnold Woodruffe or Thomas Hallam. One of these two fellow-actors was killed by Charles Macklin in the Green Room in the 1700's during a fit of jealous rage.'



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