Theatrical Thoughts: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

When it comes to a building, does a name really matter? Well, if the building in question happens to be a theatre, then yes, the name really does matter. The theatre community took to social media on Tuesday morning (03/12/19) in objection to the news that The Theatre Royal Drury Lane would be re-branded following it’s multi-million pound renovation. Soon to be home to the London premiere of Disney’s Frozen, The Theatre Royal Drury Lane holds years and years of history inside it’s walls, and many believe that at least some of that history lives on in the theatre’s iconic name.

When the news broke that the theatre was going to renamed as ‘The Lane’, there was uproar. It sounded more like a gastro pub or fancy cocktail bar then a theatre. Theatre enthusiasts stated that a name change would change the entire image of the theatre, wiping away the history in a huge show of disrespect towards the famous building and the famous faces that have tread the boards there. Following the more than obvious anger at the choice, those behind the decision were quick to claim that there had been a slight misunderstanding. 

It would appear that the theatre itself would retain the name ‘The Theatre Royal Drury Lane’ whilst the entire area around it including bars and restaurants would be called ‘The Lane’. Whilst this is much better than the original belief that it was the theatre that was to be renamed, it still asks the question. If it isn’t broke, why fix it? The theatre doesn’t need a re-brand, so why do it?

To be honest, this is not the first time that I have been left confused by a theatre name change. One that I still cannot get my head around to this day is the change from The St James Theatre to the Other Palace Theatre. Why, just why? Every time I hear it, I just have to cringe a little bit, I’m not going to lie. I think it’s a terrible name for a theatre. I can understand why it was changed to the more royal title, with it being so close to Buckingham Palace and also to pay tribute the one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most successful theatres, the Palace, but still… I just don’t like it. I really don’t. It sounds like something you would say when you’ve forgotten it’s name. Like, not that one, the other one. It’s terrible in my opinion, what was wrong with The St James as a name? Can anyone answer that?

In my opinion, the only time that a theatre’s name needs to be changed is to honour someone. This has happened a couple of times recently in the West End. Currently home to The School Of Rock, The Gillian Lynne Theatre used to be The New London Theatre. The Name change was to honour legendary choreographer Gillian Lynne, whose work on Cats The Musical became famous and one of the theatre’s greatest successes. More recently it has been confirmed that the Queen’s Theatre will become the Sondheim when it reopens with the new production of Les Miserables. I agree with this one, it was about time that legendary composer Stephen Sondheim had his own theatre.

I guess it’s all a matter of taste, but theatre’s have had their names for years, longer than most people can remember, so why change them now? 

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