One of the two renowned Aldwych theatres built on either side of the Waldorf Hotel, the Novello has been blasted by bombs during wartime, seen a few shows bomb too, and undergone serious refurbishment to become one of the most lavish theatres in town.
Opened in 1905 as the Waldorf, becoming the Strand Theatre – a name that veteran London theatregoers and cabbies still use for it today – it re-emerged as the Novello Theatre in its centenary year following a splendid £4.5 million overhaul by Delfont MacKintosh.
Named after the actor, writer, and composer Ivor Novello who lived in a flat upstairs from the theatre for 38 years, it was the place that Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed her first West End night out - she went to see Arsenic and Old Lace, as it happens.
An historic theatre, lavishly decorated in a Roman-esque style, it stages a mixture of plays and musicals to audiences in regular excess of 1,000
Past and present productions at the Novello Theatre
Right now you can’t fail to miss the huge Mamma Mia billboards outside the Novello. The hugely successful ABBA musical has been packing them in since 2012. The theatre’s first major hit was the comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, which ran for an astounding 1,337 jam-packed performances in the 40s. Other notable productions include:
- The first UK production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with Frankie Howerd
- William Golding’s first stage play
- Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing
- Buddy the Musical
And it’s become a firm favourite for RSC productions in recent years too.
What’s the best way to reach the theatre?
Situated on Aldwych, right next to the majestic Waldorf Hotel and Aldwych Theatre, the Novello is easily accessible via a variety of transport links.
The nearest tube station is Covent Garden, approx. 300m away, is on the Piccadilly Line, or there’s Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo lines), Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines), or Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines), approx. 600m away.
By National Rail
Charing Cross Railway Station is just a 10-minute walk away.
RV1, X68, 1, 6, 11, 13, 23, 59, 68, 87, 91, 139, 168, 171, 172, 188, 243 all serve Aldwych, and 4, 9, 15, 26, 76, 176, 341 will all take you to the Strand.
Nearby Santander bike hire docking stations can be found a minute away on Wellington Street, or a few minutes’ walk on Tavistock Street or Kingsway Southbound.
Where are the best places to eat in Aldwych?
Four to Eight, 14-16 Brewer Street, W1F 0SG
A contemporary Italian restaurant located in the beating heart of Covent Garden. It serves up deliciously fresh pasta dishes with a twist, with meat sourced locally from the Rare Breed Meat Company.
Homage, Waldorf Hilton Hotel, Aldwych, WC2B 4DD
An elegant affair, inspired by the grand cafes of Europe, this fashionable London restaurant serves up refined dining amidst leather banquets, elegant columns and modern art.
Axis at One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
Another hotel restaurant that impresses, here the emphasis is on thoroughly modern British cuisine. Expect an abundance of foraged foods, from sea purslane to wood sorrel.
I want to make a weekend of it, where can I stay?
The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, WC2B 4DD
If you’re looking for a conveniently placed hotel, the luxurious Waldorf is right next door. A five-star hotel that’s home to spacious rooms, a chic 1920’s themed bar; it’s one of the most iconic accommodations in Covent Garden.
One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
On the other side of the Novello you’ll find the five-star One Aldwych. With its breathtaking lobby bar, downstairs swimming pool, and romantic round corner suites; it’s a thoroughly luxurious hotel with history.
ME London, 336-337 The Strand, London WC2R 1HA
An avant garde five-star hotel, this one is worth it for the chic rooftop bar that affords great views while you sip your pre-theatre champagne.
What nearby sights and attractions should I also visit?
Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
A major arts and cultural centre in the heart of London, Somerset House plays host to everything from cutting edge photography exhibits to pottery classes. It’s also a must for fashionistas, playing host to the annual London Fashion Week.
The Southbank, London, SE1 8XX
Hop across Waterloo Bridge to the Southbank and you’ll be spoiled for things to do, day at night. Once there you’ll find the Southbank Centre, British Film Institute, the BFI’s IMAX cinema, Royal Festival Hall, and a whole host of restaurants, bars and street food markets right by the river.
Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP
A surreal and eclectic collection of paintings drawings and antiquities owned by the renowned neo-classical architect, and displayed inside his astonishing home on Lincoln’s Inn Fields.