Drury Lane Theater

Drury Lane Theater
by Stacey Graham

Sometimes you just can’t pull yourself away from good theater…

The Drury Lane, Theatre Royal, is the oldest theatre in London (save the rebuilt Globe), having been built in 1663. Its walls have a long history full of intrigue, romance and murder. The most famous ghost to inhabit the audience is the Man in Gray, so named for his long gray coat accompanying his tricorn hat, powdered wig and sword. His dress has been identified as common to the 18th century. He’s more apt to shush patrons rather than scare them, he comes to watch the play from the balcony where he slowly walks from one end to the other only to disappear into the wall. Who said ghosts only appear at night, his favorite haunting time seems to be between 9am and 6pm, time enough for the tour groups to get a good peek… He is often seen at rehearsals and his presence is considered very lucky. Of course, these are the people that want you to break a leg before any performance too so I think they’re just looking for something to hold onto.

King Charles II, who gave the theater it’s Royal Charter, also likes to pop in now and again with his retinue. His love of the theater also extended to a young actress/orange seller, Nell Gwynn, who got her start at Drury Lane. She went on to become one of the most popular and infamous figures of that century, as both a comedian and Charles’s mistress. Perhaps Chuck is wandering backstage to find his lost lover? He probably didn’t find her at the performance of Oklahoma but it did help Curly hit the high note in his solo…”OOOOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma!”

Sweet young things are often “helped” along in their performances by the unseen hands of Joe Grimaldi, a popular comic and singer who was often seen at Drury Lane (before his death, duh). He apparently guides them around the stage and gives actresses a little pat on the back after a good job. Not a bad gig for a dirty old man.

Something wicked walked through the theater about 200 years ago and left a rotting corpse behind. Around 100 years ago, workmen broke through a wall containing the skeleton of a man complete with a knife poking out of his ribcage. Now call me crazy but I’m thinking he didn’t do this on accident, at least not the bricking himself up bit. The remaining bits and pieces were gathered up and buried in a nearby churchyard. Perhaps this would’ve been the same churchyard that reburied the coffins left exposed in the Drury Lane graveyard in the 1830s. It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful scene, you, the birds and someone’s foot poking out of the ground…

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