The Theatre Royal Stratford East is a large theatre in Stratford in the London Borough of Newham. Since 1953, it has been the home of the Theatre Workshop company, famously associated with Joan Littlewood.
The theatre was designed by architect James George Buckle, who was commissioned by the actor-manager Charles Dillon in 1884. It is the architect's only surviving work, built on the site of a wheelwright's shop on Salway Road, close to the junction with Angel Lane. It opened on 17 December 1884 with a revival of Richelieu by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Two years later, Dillon sold it to Albert O'Leary Fredericks, his sister's brother-in-law and one of the original backers of the scheme.
In 1887 the theatre was renamed Theatre Royal and Palace of Varieties and side extensions were added in 1887. The stage was enlarged in 1891, by the original architect. In 1902, Frank Matcham undertook minor improvements to the entrance and foyer. The Theatre reverted to its Theatre Royal Stratford East ('TRSE') name in 1914. A fire on the stage on August Bank Holiday Monday of 1921 did considerable damage to the rear of the theatre. Thankfully the fire happened at midnight, with the safety curtain lowered, saving the auditorium which retains many of its original features to this day. The theatre was closed until January 1922
The theatre came under threat with the construction of the Stratford shopping centre in the 1970s, but was saved by a public campaign and protected in June 1972 by English Heritage with a Grade II* listing. Money remained short, and the manager, Gerry Raffles, only managed redecoration and replacements as cash became available. In 2001, following a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid, all of the theatre's front of house and backstage areas were refurbished as part of the Olympiad's Stratford Cultural Quarter project