By Tayler Gill, ISA England Senior Site Specialist
During the 6 months I lived in London, I was fortunate enough to live right near the West End (equivalent to New York’s Broadway). Because of this, deciding last minute to see a show was as easy as putting on my shoes and walking down the street. I saw exactly 40 shows! This roughly equated to about 2 shows per week while I was abroad. The ISIC card I had also allowed me to get student priced tickets and my internship placement frequently had extra tickets to shows for little or no cost which really helped.
Needless to say, I visited a lot of theatres and saw a lot of different types of shows, from large musicals to dramatic plays to new works from up and coming playwrights. Much of the architecture and inside designs reflect the time period in which the theatres were built, making a trip to the theatre not only fun, but historical! London’s theatre scene is as diverse and extensive as the city itself and is one of the main things I really miss from living there. Below are some of my favorite theatres and what you can expect on your visit!
Theatres that are mainly concentrated in London’s West End, put on large expensive commercial shows and can seat a range of guests from 250 – 2,000.
- Apollo Victoria (built in 1930, opened as a theatre in 1981) – mainly stages musicals
- Criterion Theatre (1870’s) – stages light comedic plays or musicals
- Dominion Theatre (1929) – exclusively stages musicals
- Fortune Theatre (1924) – home of the “The Woman in Black” since 1989
- London Palladium (1901) – arguably the most iconic, known for variety acts and musicals
- Lyceum Theatre (1904) – home of “The Lion King” since 1999
- Savoy Theatre (1929) – located within the Savoy Hotel, mainly stages musicals
- Queen’s Theatre (1907) – home of “Les Misérables” since 2004
- Wyndham’s Theatre (1899) – frequent rotation of mainly plays including some Shakespearean
Theatres that rotate a selection of shows every few days so you can see several shows in one week at the same venue.
- The National Theatre (1976) – publicly funded performing arts hub; has three auditoriums that can each house up to three rotating productions concurrently. Offers free acts, discounted pre-show tickets, bars/cafes, a restaurant and a book shop.
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (1997) – a reconstruction of an open-air theatre designed in 1599. The season runs from May-October with multiple shows rotating throughout.
Fringe or Off West End
Smaller theatres that still put on very good, but smaller productions and seat guests from a range of 40 – 400.
- Charing Cross Theatre (1864) – “theatre under the arches” is the perfect hidden gem venue
- Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (est 1932) – located in the Royal Park and completely uncovered
- Royal Court Theatre (1888, interior rebuilt in 1996) – has two spaces, the Theatre Downstairs and the Theatre Upstairs. Known as the “writers’ theatre” and frequently stages new works.
- Young Vic (1970) – dedicated to helping young directors, designers, actors and technicians to develop and practice their art
There is no shortage of theatre options in London so don’t be afraid to try a new one, even if it seems off the beaten path. Some of the best shows will be the ones you didn’t expect to find! And if theatre isn’t really your idea of fun, don’t worry there are plenty of other activities to do in London!
For more information on what’s playing in London check out londontheatre.co.uk