The Royalty was created in the basement of an office block constructed in 1960 on the site of the Stoll Theatre. This new auditorium seated 1000 but was never very successful as a theatre. It was soon turned into a cinema, showing such films as Ben Hur and Mutiny on the Bounty. It later became London’s third Cinerama movie theatre.
In 1966 it returned to live theatre use – most famous/notorious for housing the controversial Oh! Calcutta! – a risqué revue created by Ken Tynan based on sex-related topics. Bubbling Brown Sugar was a hit musical that followed and Sandy Denny played her final concert here in 1977. There were various ‘follies’ style shows and drag shows but the theatre struggled to make its mark in the West End.
From 1981 the Royalty was frequently used by Thames for various light entertainment shows with facilities provided by an OB unit. Sound and vision circuits were installed between Thames’ Euston Road studios and the theatre. It was used mostly by Thames for This Is Your Life but Des O’Connor-Live also came from here as well as several other shows.
John O’Brien, a Thames lighting director, recalls that in those days sound was picked up using booms, rather than personal radiomics. This must have created all kinds of problems for him (and the boom ops) on light entertainment shows which are normally lit from the front, thus potentially casting boom shadows on the artistes or the set behind them. He recalls that the ITV 24 Hour Telethon used 2 booms that tracked on and off the stage.
It seems likely that Thames continued to use the theatre on and off till they lost their franchise at the end of 1992.
The Royalty was later purchased by the London School of Economics for use as a lecture theatre during the day. They renamed it the Peacock Theatre and since 1996 it has been the West End home of the Sadler’s Wells dance company.