Broadway is the be-all, end-all when it comes to theater in the US, but in the UK an entire district (lovingly referred to as “Theatreland”) located in and around London’s West End gives the Big Apple a run for its money. West End Theatre in London offers the highest level of commercial theater in the English-speaking world and enjoying dinner and a West End show is a popular evening activity for tourists in London.
Here’s our list of 5 reasons you should make time to see a show at an outstanding West End Theatre in London the next time you’re in the UK:
From Shakespeare to Marlowe, London has a rich dramatic history. The first permanent public playhouse in the city was built in 1576 in Shoreditch and was known simply as “The Theatre.” Soon this playhouse was joined by “The Curtain” and both venues were used by William Shakespeare’s troop. Determined to preserve the history of London’s first playhouse, the original timbers from The Theatre were moved to Southwark and used to construct the Globe Theatre in a new theater district which stood outside the control of the city of London. The Globe operated until 1642 when London’s theaters were temporarily closed by the Puritans.
London’s relationship with theater was renewed during the Restoration in 1660 when two acting companies (the Duke’s Company and the King’s Company) were granted a license to perform. This was about the time that the first West End theatre in London was opened – a playhouse known as Theatre Royal in Bridges Street. This building was destroyed by fire and operated for less than a decade, but Christopher Wren designed its replacement, naming the new structure Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. A walk through modern London’s West End offers visitors an exciting tension which exists between modern design and long-standing tradition. The history of London’s famous performance spaces is one reason you must make time to attend a West End show.
If you’ve never seen a show on Broadway or at a West End theater in London one could argue that you’ve never experienced live theater the way it should be. From big-name actors and actresses to revered directors and incredible designers – the most talented people in the world work in London’s West End. Whether you enjoy musical theater, a laugh-out-loud comedy or prefer a nuanced and textured drama, taking your family to see a show in London is a way to ignite a life-long appreciation for the dramatic arts. As a child I was lucky enough to attend a performance of Oliver! in London’s West End. My family sat in the nosebleeds at the back of the balcony, but even from that distance I remember that evening as one of the most magical of my childhood. Whether you’re planning a romantic evening with your sweetheart or you’re introducing your child to live performance for the first time – a trip to London’s West End will be something you’ll never forget.
From preserving and reusing the timbers of London’s first theater during the construction of The Globe to the close relationship between the city and some of the world’s greatest playwrights … London’s West End theater district is part of a rich, long-standing and respected dramatic tradition. Walk the sidewalks on opening night of a new show and you’ll feel a buzz of excitement unlike any other, reminding you that this was the city where Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Doctor Faustus were all written and staged. Attending a show in one of London’s West End theaters allows you to step into and take part in one of the most storied dramatic traditions in the world.
“Theatreland” – the main theater district in London – is home to forty venues located in the heart of or in close proximity to London’s West End. What does this mean to folks visiting London? It means that no matter when you visit there is always going to be a show to match your taste and budget.
Divided into four main sections (Oxford Street to the North, The Strand to the south, Regent Street in the west and Kingsway in the east), London’s West End theater district is a mecca for those who love the performing arts. . Prominent theater streets in the West End include Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue and The Strand and it’s a good idea to arrive early so you can stroll the streets and enjoy the bubbling energy of the district in the hours leading up to the evening performance.
Whether you’re young or simply young at heart – nothing is quite like escaping reality for an evening and enjoying a well-performed play. Comedy, tragedy, drama or musical – a live performance in London’s West End is the ideal way to enjoy a night out on the town.
If it’s your first visit to London be warned: touring the city can feel like a full-time job! From Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London … there’s so much to see, do and appreciate that walking tours, jet lag and countless ancient structures can leave your feet tired and your family’s nerves frayed.
A trip to the theater in London’s West End is the perfect solution because it’s something different, it’s something easy and for many people it’s a way to re-charge and renew your enthusiasm for one of the greatest cities in the world. Ignite your creative energy while you enjoy a section of London that you’d be foolish to skip! Purchasing tickets to a fabulous show (whether it’s a classic title that everyone knows or a production making its West End debut) is a terrific investment and a great way to determine the best time to visit London for you and yours.
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