Designed by renowned theatre architect W. G. R. Sprague, St Martin's is on West Street, slap bang in the centre of London’s glittering West End. The building process was delayed by the outbreak for the First World War and work only began in earnest during November 1916. The interior design is of polished wood rather than the more commonly used white plasterwork and the building is Grade II listed.
The first production to take place at the theatre was the Edwardian musical comedy Houp La! which opened in November 1916. Following this, the theatre staged many premiers covering controversial issues such as the 1917 production of Damaged Goods, a story about a young couple who contract syphilis, and A Bill of Divorcement in 1920, which looked at divorce due to insanity. In 1923, the St Martin’s theatre showcased Karel Capek’s futuristic Rossum’s Universal Robots.
In 1938, the famous playwright J. B. Priestley premiered his play When We Are Married at the theatre and St Martin’s had further success with Edward Percy’s thriller The Shop At Sly Corner in 1945, which ran for a total of 863 performances. The thriller Sleuth also had an impressive run of three years at the St Martin’s theatre, beginning in 1970.
The success of Sleuth in the 1970s was surpassed by Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. This murder mystery has become synonymous with St Martin’s, having transferred to the venue in 1974 after a cool 22 years next door at the Ambassadors. The Mousetrap is the longest-running play ever and holds the record for the longest-running show at a single venue.