Underbelly and Soho Estates Announce Underbelly’s First Ever Permanent Venue
IN THE HEART OF SOHO. A NEW LIVE ENTERTAINMENT VENUE FOR MUSIC, CABARET AND VARIETY. OPENING SEPTEMBER 2023
Underbelly and Soho Estates are delighted to announce today that Soho Estates have agreed to lease the Boulevard Theatre to Underbelly, which will become Underbelly’s first ever permanent venue, UNDERBELLY BOULEVARD. In the heart of Soho, formerly known as the Boulevard Theatre and renovated by Soho Estates, the venue will open in September 2023.
Operated by Underbelly, producers of the seven-time Olivier award-winning Cabaret and iconic live entertainment events, UNDERBELLY BOULEVARD will be a brand new home for the hottest cabaret, variety and music, comprising of a 200 capacity performance venue, a rehearsal room for hire, daytime hire for events, readings and workshops, a bar and a 100 cover restaurant.
Full details and on-sale information for the opening programme of shows will be announced in July. Sign up now at www.underbellyboulevard.com to be the first to know more and for priority on-sales.
Underbelly’s Directors, Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood said today, “We couldn’t be more thrilled and honoured to have been chosen by Fawn and Soho Estates to take on the lease for this extraordinary and iconic venue. Not only does this mark a major milestone for Underbelly as our first permanent venue in London, but the venue is also perfectly suited to our style of programming and live entertainment ethos. We look forward to making Underbelly Boulevard a vital and captivating part of Soho’s already wonderful cultural offer and we can’t wait to share further details of what we’ve got in store in July.”
Fawn James from Soho Estates said today “The Boulevard Theatre was a wonderful chance for me to amalgamate my love of the arts and my family’s long history with the area. Having invested heavily into reinstating the theatre in Walkers Court, it is hugely important to me that its legacy is continued with just as much care and dedication. I have a lot of passion and belief in this building and the heritage behind it, and I couldn’t be prouder to be passing this on to Underbelly and for the Boulevard to be their first permanent venue. Underbelly’s ethos fits perfectly with the history of the venue and I am incredibly excited to see them develop the Boulevard into the space it should be.”
The original Boulevard Theatre site began as a sister venue to the Raymond Revuebar in the late 1950s, before becoming a small theatre in its own right, the ‘Elle et Lui’ theatre. In the late 1970’s, it was renamed the Boulevard Theatre, and was home to a wide variety of productions, most famously to ‘The Comic Strip’, but also included ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles, adapted by David Parker, ‘Infidelities’ starring Jill Bennett and Eddie Izzard’s ‘Raging Bull’ comedy club before closing its doors in the early 1990’s. In 2010, Soho Estates began an extensive regeneration of the Walker’s Court area which included the reopening the Boulevard Theatre in October 2019.
Underbelly are internationally renowned producers, whose work on the Edinburgh Fringe began in the year 2000 and has continued to this day. Their iconic purple cow, Violet, has been seen in Edinburgh, on London’s Southbank, in Hong Kong and more. Their theatrical arm, Underbelly Productions presents, produces and promotes a diverse programme of work including the multi award winning Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, La Clique Live in Leicester Square, Austentatious at The Fortune Theatre, Five Guys Named Moe at the Marble Arch Theatre and more.
Fawn James is a Director of Soho Estates. Her grandfather was Soho Estates’ founder Paul Raymond, an entertainment impresario and property investor, who staged revue and variety shows at countless Soho venues from the 1950s onwards. Fawn intends to honour her grandfather’s legacy by helping to promote Soho as an arts and entertainment district. Fawn is also a Trustee for ‘Soho Theatre’ and a member of the Executive Committee of the ‘Royal Variety Charity’.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
Instagram – @underbellyboulevard
Facebook – Underbelly Boulevard — www.facebook.com/ubsoho
Twitter – @ubsoho
HISTORY OF THE BOULEVARD THEATRE
The original Boulevard Theatre site began as a sister venue to the Raymond Revuebar. It was run under the same name as the Revuebar and provided an additional bar and restaurant which housed gaming tables, prior to the gaming act in 1968.
It then became a small theatre in its own right, and was known as the ‘Elle et Lui’ theatre.
The theatre was accessed through the Raymond Revuebar but had its own separate box office in the Revuebar foyer. Famous shows include ‘Paul Raymond presents Penetration: An Erotic Adventure in French Pornography’ in 1977.
Due to the similarity in genre of shows and competition that the ‘Elle et Lui’ theatre created for the Revuebar and The Windmill Theatre, the theatre was closed and reopened as the ‘Boulevard Theatre’. To begin with, the theatre continued to share the entrance with the Revuebar, but later a separate entrance was installed, making it a stand-alone venue.
The Boulevard Theatre presented various productions, including erotic, comedy and straight plays, and is most famously known as the home of Peter Richardson’s Comic Strip. Over the years, shows included: ‘Women Behind Bars’ c.1977 / Jeremy Taylor’s ‘Back in Town’ c.1979 / ‘The Marilyn Chambers Show’ c.1979 / ‘The Comic Strip Presents’ c.1980 / ‘The Collector’ (by John Fowles, adapted by David Parker) c.1984 / ‘Infidelities’ starring Jill Bennett c.1986 / Eddie Izzard’s ‘Raging Bull’ comedy club c.1989.
Timeline of the Boulevard Theatre Site
Late 1950s – Sister venue to Revuebar Opens
1960s – The venue is renamed the Elle et Lui and a theatre in its own right
1970s – Renamed The Boulevard Theatre, home to comedy, cabaret and music
1990s – The Boulevard Theatre closes its doors
2000s – The French Pussycat adult entertainment venue opens
2010 – Fawn James conceived the idea to reopen the Boulevard
2014 – Regeneration of Walker’s Court area begins
October 2019 – Fawn James opens the new Boulevard
2020 – forced to close due to Covid (after only 6 months of being open)
2022 – post covid – opens as a temporary venue for ‘Soho Live Music Club’
2023 – new operator ‘Underbelly Boulevard’
The venue pays tribute to the original theatre and is situated on the original site. Designed by architects SODA studio and theatre consultants Charcoal Blue. A central feature of the Boulevard Theatre is its ability to rotate at both stalls and balcony level to achieve a full 360deg.
Architects: SODA studio
Theatre Design Consultant: Charcoalblue
Acoustic Design: Charcoalblue
Seating Design: Charcoalblue, SODA studio, Race Furniture
Seating Manufacturer: Race Furniture
Main Contractor: Blenheim House Construction
Structural Engineers: Tier
M&E: Thornton Reynolds
Stage Engineering and Revolve Contractor: TAIT
Specialist Stage Lighting and Audio/Video Contractor: White Light
Underbelly is a UK-based live entertainment company that specialises in producing and programming ground-breaking theatrical productions and the creation of city-centre cultural events and festivals. Founded in 2000 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood, the company has since gone on to produce shows and events in locations from theatres to roundabouts from London to Asia. In 2019, pre-COVID, we welcomed more than 9 million people to our productions, events, and festivals.
Current Underbelly productions include the seven times Olivier award-winning production of Cabaret in London’s West End, for which they are the lead co-producer (with ATG Productions), the trailblazing cabaret show La Clique and the upcoming production of Macbeth with Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma. Other recent previous productions include Five Guys Named Moe (Marble Arch Theatre), Olivier Award nominated for Best Entertainment; Austentatious (Fortune Theatre) and La Clique (Leicester Square and Singapore).
Underbelly is one of the leading venue producers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where highlights of our 21 years include presenting Fleabag in 2013, Six in 2018, Joan Rivers in 2008, two seasons of CIRCA’s award-winning Humans and Mischief Comedy in 2012 and 2013.
Current festivals and events in the Underbelly portfolio include Underbelly at Depot Mayfield Manchester, Underbelly Festival, Christmas in Leicester Square & Trafalgar Square, the Leicester Square Spiegeltent and Underbelly at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Underbelly are also the third-party producer for major events including Pride in London and West End Live.