Designed by the talented theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague, who also designed the Aldwych, the Ambassadors opened on 5th June 1913 and is a Grade II listed building. It's a tiny place with just 418 seats over two levels. The stage itself is just 6.25 metres deep, very small by West End standards. And the intimate auditorium has a proscenium arch over the stage, ideal for revue-style productions.
The Ambassadors was designed as a companion to St Martins theatre, which opened three years afterwards. The venue's inaugural production was a play by Monckton Hoffe entitled Panthea, which only ran for three weeks because, at the time of opening, there had been a downturn in theatre attendances.
The Guardian observed that the theatre, "is built in accordance with the latest ideas of theatrical architecture, decorated in a scheme of ivory, gold, and violet, and will seat – and this is the novelty – no more than five hundred people. Whatever be the chances for new large theatres nowadays, there certainly is a place for a small theatre, so much more suitable for many of the most interesting modern plays." The Times described the theatre as "a new and dainty little playhouse”.
In November 1921 the great Ivor Novello made his London West End stage debut at the Ambassadors in Sacha Guitry's play Deburau, presented in English by Harley Granville Barker. It was also here, in 1935, that the young Vivien Leigh made her West End stage debut in Ashley Dukes’s comedy The Mask of Virtue. Her performance was well received and she signed a £50,000 film contract just days after the opening night, a dream come true.
Other notable productions include Helene Hanoff's play 84 Charing Cross Road, adapted and directed by James Roose-Evans and starring Rosemary Leach, which opened in November 1981 and enjoyed a 16-month run. Following a spell at the Barbican Pit Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Laclos’s play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, adapted by Christopher Hampton, transferred in October 1986 and stayed just under four years. And Marie Jones’ award-winning comedy Stones In His Pockets opened here in May 2000 before transferring three months later to the Duke of York’s theatre, where it stayed for just over three years.
Between 1986 and 1999 the venue was used by The Royal Court Theatre from September to stage their famous ‘Theatre Upstairs’ studio-based works, while their own theatre in Sloane Square underwent major reconstruction. After a run of five years at the Vaudeville theatre, the music-making extravaganza Stomp transferred to the Ambassadors in October 2007.