8 Iconic London Theatres For A Dramatic Night Out

Alex Landon Alex Landon - Editor

London theatres

London is stuffed full of historic, impressive theatres – here are our favourites!

Fittingly for a city that Shakespeare once called home, London boasts an incredible, diverse theatre scene. From stunning revivals to wonderful new writing, the playhouses and auditoriums of the city welcome jaw-dropping talent each night. Here are eight London theatres you really should be making a pilgrimage to soon.

1. The Globe

The Globe
Photo: @irrphotography

Yes, it’s iconic. No, it is not the original (as one very disgruntled TripAdvisor reviewer found out). Still, The Globe is an incredible theatrical space, the perfect amphitheatre for Shakespeare’s classics. Technically two theatres – the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the outdoor Globe Theatre – a year-round programme of Shakespeare plays is complemented by nifty schemes such as Midnight Matinées and Audience Choice nights, at which the play you’ll see is very democratically determined by “loudest cheer wins”. Read all about it here.

2. The Old Vic

Old Vic
Photo: @oldvictheatre

Currently hosting a very warmly-received revival of Present Laughter (read our review here), The Old Vic is rather old indeed. In fact, they celebrated their 200th birthday last year, which makes them amongst the oldest theatres in London. If you can think of a famous actor, they’ve most likely tread the boards here, part of an Old Vic programme that regularly blends new work and classic plays.

3. Almeida Theatre

London theatres
Photo: @almeida_theatre

Islington’s Upper Street is filled with delights, none more so than the Almeida Theatre. Despite being built in 1837, the building – with the distinctive bare brick wall that often features in productions –  didn’t actually see sustained use as a theatre until 1980, when director Pierre Audi launched a campaign to renovate it. Since then, the Almeida has built an international reputation, standing upon the twin foundations of exciting new work and big name stars – which earned it the accolade of London Theatre of the Year in 2016 and 2018.

4. National Theatre

London theatres
Photo: @nationaltheatre

To describe the design of the National Theatre as divisive would be quite the understatement; Prince Charles famously compared it to a nuclear power plant. Still, what the place’s Brutalist design may lack in sweeping grandeur, it more than makes up for in theatrical value. Three theatres (the Olivier, the Lyttelton, and the Dorfman) fill the space inside, and whilst you’d be mad not to see something live, you can often catch their productions in cinemas, as part of the invaluable NT Live screenings.

5. Waterloo Vaults

Waterloo Vaults
Photo: @adamluked

Iconic London theatres aren’t just about grand facades and chandelier-filled auditoriums, as Waterloo Vaults proves on the regular. In the bowels of Waterloo station, you’ll find a warren of rooms, tunnels, and bars that play host to the annual Vault Festival, where experimental works and reinvented classics provide a very different kind of theatre experience. More info here.

6. London Coliseum

London theatres
Photo: @englishnationalopera

Best known as the home of the English National Opera, London Coliseum takes the title of ‘largest theatre in the West End’. An opulent, gilded amphitheatre is a prime place to catch the opera, but if your tastes are a little more mainstream, you’d be wise to keep your eyes peeled for their frequent musicals. Currently in residence is On Your Feet!, whilst a Michael Ball-led revival of Hairspray opens at the Coliseum next year.

7. Theatre Royal Drury Lane

London theatres
Photo: @papersandpaints

The fact that a theatre has stood on this site since 1663 makes the Theatre Royal the oldest theatre in London – although the current building dates only from 1812. It’s primarily known for musicals (as befits a theatre owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber), usually with one show in residence for a prolonged period. The likes of Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, 42nd Street, Miss Saigon, and The Producers have been staged here, with highly-anticipated Broadway transfer Frozen up next.

8. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

London theatres
Photo: David Jensen

Regent’s Park is full of treasures – this sculpture garden is currently wowing visitors – but amongst the most important is their open air theatre, which hosts a stunning programme of theatre each summer. Their recent production of Jesus Christ Superstar was an unmissable smash hit, and their 2019 season will wrap up with a revival of Evita, perfect for a warm summer’s night in the park. See more here.

Featured image: @englishnationalopera

Also published on Medium.