July 13, 1944: London was suffering aerial bombardment from German V-1 rockets, otherwise known as doodlebugs, 75 years ago this week. The Stage (at that time printing a reduced eight-page edition due to paper rationing) reported on how West End theatres were coping with the bombing in a special report.
“The London theatres have taken another nasty knock with the arrival of the flying bombs,” we reported. “After a period of almost unexampled prosperity, box office business had already fallen away with the launching of the Western Invasion, and the consequent withdrawal from London of large numbers of men in the British and Allied Services.
“Thus, at the first night of Gipsy Love at the Saville, on Wednesday, June 14 – the day before the continuous flying bomb assaults on London and Southern England began – there were already many gloomy faces among people concerned with theatrical management and much talk of a slump. The fact remains that on the following night nearly 40 theatres were open in the area generally described as the West End. That number has now fallen to 14. The survivors include two ballet seasons; the Open Air Season at Regent’s Park, which has struggled with almost every conceivable adversity; the continuous variety offering at the Windmill; and the CEMA/Herbert Marshall presentation of Madeleine at the Lyric Hammersmith.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive