Since the Restoration (1660) theatres have existed in London's West End – the first was the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane built in 1663 followed by the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. They were all what were termed patented companies: under the control of the Lord Chamberlain they were the only theatres that were allowed to perform spoken plays. Slowly other theatres began to appear in the area which got around the patent laws by performing musical plays or melodramas. With the passing of the Theatres Act in 1843 the strangle hold enjoyed by the Theatres Royal was relaxed and a theatre building boom began that saw The Vaudeville, Criterion, Savoy and Comedy theatres all opened by 1881. The boom reached it zenith by the beginning of World War I and today there are 38 theatres in the boundaries of what is known as Theatreland.
Between the two Great Wars West End theatre was awash with new plays, musical revues, operettas, revivals, musicals and stars – British and International. During the 20s-30s when Nerman was recording the theatre scene in and around London it was not unusual to have two or three openings a week. Unfortunately many of those big names are today largely forgotten or remembered only for appearances later in their lives in movies or on television but in the day a name such as Marie Tempest or Mrs Pat Campbell on the marquee meant full houses and long runs.
07 gennaio - San Canuto Lavard