Also known as Trafalgar Studios at the Whitehall Theatre in honour of its former incarnation, the building consists of two intimate theatres designed by architects Tim Foster and John Muir. Studio 1, the larger of the two spaces with 380 seats, opened on June 3, 2004 with the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Othello. Studio 2, with 100 seats, opened in October 2005 with the play Cyprus.
The original Whitehall Theatre, built on the site of the 17th century Ye Old Ship Tavern was designed by Edward A. Stone, with interiors in the Art Deco style by Marc-Henri and Laverdet. The theatre opened on September 29, 1930 with The Way to Treat a Woman by Walter Hackett, who was the theatre's licensee. In November 1933 Henry Daniell appeared there as Portman in Afterwards. Hackett presented several other plays of his own before leaving in 1934, and the theatre built its reputation for modern comedies throughout the rest of the decade. During World War II it housed revues, which had become commonplace entertainment throughout the West End. In 1942, The Whitehall Follies, featuring Phyllis Dixey, the first stripper to perform in the theatre district, opened with great fanfare and became an immediate success. Dixey leased the theatre and remained in it for the next five years. A series of farces, presented under the umbrella title The Whitehall Farces by producer Lord Brian Rix, were staged over the next twenty-two years, with many of them televised.
In 1969 a nude revue called Pyjama Tops took over the venue and remained for five years, after which the building was shuttered. After considerable refurbishment that retained most of its Art Deco features, it reopened on March 5, 1986 with a successful revival of J. B. Priestley's When We Are Married. Subsequent productions included When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Foreigner, Run For Your Wife, Absurd Person Singular, Travels with My Aunt, tributes to Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, and the Blues Brothers, and solo performances by Ennio Marchetto and Maria Friedman.
Between 1997 and 1999, the theatre was converted into a television and radio studio used primarily to broadcast Jack Docherty's popular talk show and BBC Radio 4's Live from London. It returned to theatrical use, with such productions as Three Sisters, Puppetry of the Penis, "Art", Rat Pack Confidential, and Sing-a-Long-a-ABBA, before its owner, the Ambassador Theatre Group, announced the building would be reconfigured and reopen with a new name.
Past productions at Trafalgar Studios include Sweeney Todd, Alan Bennett's The Old Country, an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and Bent. The theatre was Grade II listed by English Heritage in December 1996, noting "The auditorium has a decorative cohesion and prettiness rare in theatres of its day, and has the best surviving original fabric of this type of theatre".