London’s self-styled ‘Theatreland’ district may be the heart of the city’s booming musical business, but you can find many other historic and cutting-edge theatres dotted around the capital if you’re looking for something a little more inventive or challenging.
However, if you’re heading to London on a theatre break to catch the latest hit show, or you’re just looking for a great activity to start off your night out in the lively city, the West End is where the action is. London’s answer to Broadway – and equally impressive when it comes to box office figures and setting new standards in performance – the West End is the best place to see Hollywood stars like Whoopi Goldberg and Kevin Spacey treading the boards in new or classic musicals, alongside the UK’s own hand-picked talent.
The West End is so associated with theatres, that it was rebranded as Theatreland by Westminster council and the Society of London Theatre in a further bid to boost ticket sales and public awareness – not that more publicity was needed after a string of highly successful audition shows on the BBC proved so instrumental in causing box office figures in the district to reach new heights.
Some of the most well-known theatres in this region have been entertaining the masses for more than a century, and have stood the test of time even with the emergence of other forms of entertainment, such as the cinema, television and the internet. You only have to head down Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue or The Strand to see recognisable names like the Adelphi, the Savoy and the Queen’s Theatre, many of which are equally fascinating for their Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
If it’s unique design you’re looking for from your London theatre, head to the renovated Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, where you have the chance to see authentic performances of the Bard’s most famous plays throughout the summer season. Classical theatre is big business elsewhere in London too, and you’ll have plenty of options on your doorstep if you’re staying at London hotels in Southwark or the City of London – home to the Old Vic and the Barbican Theatre, respectively.
Theatre is no longer the privilege of the cultural elite, and you’ll find there are as many chances to see all-singing, all-dancing musicals in the capital as there are opportunities to tax your brain with more cerebral and challenging works at London’s fringe theatre venues.