The Church and the Theatre
St Paul’s is widely known as the Actors’ Church. The connection with the theatre began as early as 1662 with the establishment of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was further assured in 1723 with the opening of the Covent Garden Theatre - now The Royal Opera House. Those two theatres became the starting place for ‘the west end’ theatre, and both were, and are, in our Parish.
On 9th May 1662, Samuel Pepys notes in his diary that the first “Italian puppet play” took place under the Portico of the church which marks the start of “Punch and Judy” as we know it - today, we continue to host an international Punch and Judy festival each May.
Memorials in the church are dedicated to many famous theatrical personalities, including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Gracie Fields, Vivien Leigh, Ivor Novello, Richard Beckinsale, Barbara Windsor and Diana Rigg. The ashes of Ellen Terry and Dame Edith Evans rest at St Paul’s.
George Bernard Shaw also set the opening scene of Pygmalion - the play that formed the basis for My Fair Lady - under the Portico. In 2016, in association with Emma Brunjes Productions and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd, we were proud to present the 60th anniversary concert performance of My Fair Lady in homage. There is a memorial plaque to Alan Jay Lerner, the lyricist and playwright of My Fair Lady, unveiled by his widow, Liz Robertson.
Today, we continue our traditions with the theatre by having an in-house professional theatre company Iris Theatre who put on productions throughout the year. We support other theatre companies by hosting their productions and stage many theatrical events such as West End Bake Off and West End Flea Market.