Designed by the architect Ernest Schaufelberg, the Fortune Theatre opened in 1924. Unlike the earlier theatre of its name which once stood where the Barbican Centre stands today and had a statue of a the Goddess of Fortune over the entrance, the new Fortune is simple square brick building of four storeys with minimal adornment.
Strangely enough, it is built in the shadow of the famous and glorious Drury Lane Theatre and inches away from the Scottish National Church with which it shares the structure. The 440-seat theatre provides a cosy atmosphere and intimacy for plays of a diminutive nature. In 1924, the opening production called Sinners and staged by the owner Laurence Cowan might have confused the churchgoers!
Despite its name, the Fortune struggled to attract audiences and long running shows. In 1927, the actor-manager Tom Walls took over the management of the theatre and ran the first and last hit here for some time: On Approval! Like the Drury Lane Theatre, it was also used during World War II by ENSA, the organisation formed to provide entertainment for servicemen and women allied home and abroad.
After the war, the Fortune Theatre became the house of few successful shows such as Beyond the Fringe, Mr Cinders and Double Double. In 1989, the theatre opened its doors to the enigmatic play The Woman in Black which celebrated its 5,000 performances in July 2001! A great success which will continue to frighten audiences for some time!