Theatre in London
With a rich history, some of the world’s most iconic theaters, and top drama schools turning out brilliant actors both onstage and in front of the camera, London is certainly an epicenter for the dramatic arts. Witnessing a live production in the city is a must for travelers, but for those wondering where to start, we’re here to help.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theater: This iconic theater is popular amongst tourists and locals alike. When the theater first opened its doors 1997, there was only an outdoor space that would run performances from April to October. Since the addition of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse last year, the company has been able to produce shows year-round. As its name suggests, the theater focuses on works by the master, William Shakespeare, but recently started introducing new writing as well. In addition to the wonderful plays, the theater offers tours and the Swan Restaurant is located onsite for your dining pleasure before or after a performance. The theater is located in the inner borough of Southwark which was home to Charles Dickens in his younger years. The neighborhood is also home to other theaters including the Southwark Playhouse and the Union Theatre, as well as notable museums and galleries like MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) London.
The Old Vic: Opened in 1818, the Old Vic Theater was the first home to the Royal National Theatre, which was founded by the great Laurence Olivier. Actor Kevin Spacey just ended his 11-year run as artistic director for the Old Vic, handing the reigns over to Matthew Warchus. Warchus has shown interest in new works as well as musicals, but there is always a place for the classics and big-name revivals on the Vic’s iconic stage. The theater is just south of London Waterloo Station and is surrounded by vibrant cafes including Gordon Ramsey’s Union Street Café. Once an old warehouse space, the café is now a trendy spot with modern art decorating the walls. Or, if you’d rather stay within the theater for a bite, Penny is a café located within the Old Vic that offers anything from light snacks to brunch and is open until 2am, Thursday – Sunday.
The Young Vic: As you might have guessed, this theater derives its name directly from its relationship with the Old Vic. When the Young Vic opened in 1970, it was as a youth-oriented sister company to the Royal National Theatre which called the Old Vic home. Featuring two smaller spaces, the Young Vic produces new material that is often considered eclectic, experimental, and innovative. There are multiple bars and the menu’s delicious burger attracts many locals in the area around lunchtime.
The National Theatre: One of London’s famous landmarks and considered by many to be one of the greatest theaters in the world, this theater is often referred to as the National Theatre of Great Britain. The large venue houses four different auditoriums whose stages have premiered world-famous plays such as War Horse. Whenever large-scale and Tony Award-winning shows are touring, it’s a safe bet that their stop in England will be at the National Theatre, such as Wicked and Cats. It is located next to the Thames in the South Bank entertainment and commercial district in central London. Nearby are other important art and performance venues, including Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, and Hayward Gallery.