After the Wyndham’s theatre was finished in November 1899, a vacant plot of land was unintentionally created on St Martin’s Lane behind the venue. In stepped Sir Charles Wyndham, who decided to build a new theatre there. It opened on 12th March 1903 with a frontage design in free classical style and an unusual interior in Louis XVI style.
An interesting feature is the pedestrian footbridge linking the Noel Coward with Wyndham’s theatre, set high above the street and acting as a 'secret' passage between the two buildings.
The first show to grace the stage of the Noel Coward Theatre was a play called Rosemary, starring Wyndham himself and his wife Mary Moore. Notable productions of the period included Fred Terry and Julia Neilson's annual six-month seasons between 1905 and 1913, when their highly successful production of The Scarlet Pimpernel was presented and revived six times!
Dion Boucicault, the famous playwright's son, became manager of the theatre in 1915 and presented five Christmas revivals of Peter Pan along with a number of other successful productions. The young Noel Coward presented the early play I'll Leave It To You at the venue, which received good reviews from the critics but didn't convince the paying public and closed after five weeks. It's ironic that, not far short of 100 years later, the venue was renamed in his honour.
1924 saw a production of George Bernard Shaw's St Joan, which starred Sybil Thorndike in the title role, enjoy great success. The 1930s and 40s saw John Gielgud's production of Hamlet, in which he starred, plus Romeo and Juliet starring John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft and Edith Evans.
In the 1970s, both The National theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company presented well received seasons at the venue. And the first day of January 1973 saw the theatre renamed as The Albery in celebration of Sir Bronson Albery, the theatre’s manager for many decades.
In the 1980s, the theatre saw continued success as Children of a Lesser God, which debuted there in 1981, won the Olivier Award for Best New Play.
The spoof puppet musical Avenue Q came along in 2006 and ran for over three years. Since then, the theatre has presented a mixture of plays and musicals including Calendar Girls, Million Dollar Quartet and Hay Fever. In 2013, the theatre was taken over for a season of plays by the Michael Grandage Company.
Today it is operated by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres after they took over the freehold and management back in September of 2005.