London’s West End opens first purpose-built theatre in 50 years

@sohoplace is part of a £300m regeneration of the Tottenham Court Road station area and boasts better legroom and completely unrestricted view.

@sohoplace West End theatre opening

@sohoplace is part of a £300m regeneration of the Tottenham Court Road station area and boasts better legroom and completely unrestricted view.

This autumn will see a major new West End theatre open that claims to provide audiences an alternative to restricted legroom, poor sightlines, and questionable acoustics. Sufferers of the latest heatwave will be delighted to read that @sohoplace will be fully air-conditioned too, something which can’t be said of some of the country’s older playhouses.

Architect Simon Allford has designed a building whose heart is a curved, air-conditioned, surprisingly intimate auditorium with 602 blue seats (and generous legroom). On a first walk around, it’s hard to find a bad seat in the house. Sophisticated acoustic design means there is no need for mics or bellowing on the stage – and most impressively, no noise from the nearby transport network.

Nica Burns @sohoplace West End theatre

‘Let’s make magic’ … theatre owner and producer Nica Burns in the auditorium of @sohoplace. Photograph: Geraint Lewis

The owner of @sohoplace (do you say the ‘at’ out loud or just call it Soho Place?), Nica Burns, is one of the West End’s superstar producers and currently co-owns six other venues in her Nimax group, including the Vaudeville (which hosts the Tony award-winning musical Six), the Palace (where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child enjoys residency), and the Apollo (where you can go and see Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance).

The 12-year project to build the theatre was part of a £300m regeneration of the area by property business Derwent London that also includes the first new street name in Soho for 72 years: Soho Place, a piazza by the former site of the Astoria music venue, which was one of the buildings demolished for the Crossrail project. The exact cost of her own theatre within that multimillion package, said Burns, was as yet not entirely clear.

@sohoplace West End theatre

A balcony inside @sohoplace’s auditorium (Photograph: Tim Soar)

The theatre has a constellation leitmotif which was inspired by Burns’s performance under the night sky, as a young actor, at the ancient theatre of Epidaurus in Greece. Astrological signs adorn the restaurant and lights twinkle underneath the building’s canopy entrance. “Theatre is about magic,” she said. “Let’s make this a magic space.”

Ticket prices have not been announced but Burns said they won’t be three figures, and will be “less than what the National Theatre charge”.

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