Stage set for construction of London’s biggest new theatre since 1976

Plans have been announced for the construction of the biggest theatre in London for 45 years.

The 1,575-seat, £100 million Olympia will form part of the redevelopment of the same name in Kensington, following a deal between theatre operator Trafalgar Entertainment and the site owners.

Sir Howard Panter, impresario and Trafalgar co-founder, told the PA news agency the space would be “something of international stature as the UK emerges into the new era”.

The Olympia theatre in London (Trafalgar Entertainment/PA)
The Olympia theatre in London (Trafalgar Entertainment/PA)

The last large theatre to open in the capital was the National Theatre on South Bank in 1976.

Designed by theatre architects Haworth Tompkins, the Olympia will feature a stacked auditorium design, meaning seats will feel closer to the stage, as well as bar, hospitality and VIP facilities.

The theatre is scheduled to open in mid to late 2025, with Trafalgar Entertainment’s lease running for 35 years and an option to extend for a further 35.

The redevelopment of the Olympia exhibition and conference centre, which was opened in 1886, is expected to cost its owners, Yoo Capital and Deutsche Finance International, around £1.3 billion.

On completion it will have a music and events venue run by entertainment giant AEG Presents as well as CitizenM and Hyatt hotels.

Film and Comic Con – London
The Olympia hosts the London Film and Comic Con (Matt Crossick/PA)

Sir Howard told PA: “It is the first permanent large theatre of anything like this scale to be built since the National Theatre. It is something of international stature as the UK emerges into the new era.

“We hope that a bit like our neighbour just down the road, the Royal Albert Hall, it will become an iconic, marvellous cultural building in its own right.

“We know the power of those buildings in making places and these days we are all facing the problem of, ‘How do we make our city centres places that people want to be? How do we make them exciting and vibrant again culturally, socially and economically?’ And I think this speaks to a lot of that zeitgeist at the moment.”

Chairman of Yoo Capital, John Hitchcox, said: “Sir Howard Panter and (Trafalgar co-founder) Dame Rosemary Squire have a unique track record in exceptional live entertainment and we are delighted to welcome Trafalgar Entertainment as the latest tenants of Olympia.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Sir Howard Panter is knighted by the Queen (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“Our vision is to create a new cultural hub in west London and we are looking forward to opening the largest new permanent theatre in the city for 45 years.

“This will be a big boost for the city’s entertainment industry and the local economy, providing the very best productions for theatre lovers and heralding a new era for theatre and entertainment in London.”

The announcement comes ahead of Monday when many theatres will welcome back socially distanced crowds for the first time this year, ahead of June 21 when such measures are due to end, according to the Government’s coronavirus road map.

Sir Howard said Trafalgar Entertainment, which has shows including Jersey Boys, Anything Goes and Death Drop opening in the West End, had been preparing for this moment.

He said: “We have had this position throughout the pandemic, frankly, that when it comes to turning on the taps, you had got to have water in the pipes, which means content.

“You can’t just turn on the taps and expect something to come out so we have been putting the water into the pipes during the pandemic and have got productions ready to roll here in London and across the UK, in Australia, Singapore and so on.

“We have been building up during this period to burst forward and we obviously hope and pray that the road map remains on course because there is a huge amount of creative energy, resources, finance that has gone into it.

“We are very positive about it starting to reopen on Monday and then fully opening on June 21.

“It would be a big blow if June 21 didn’t fully open up as the Government have suggested that it ought to subject to the usual caveats.”