Who does not love a good trip to the theatre? The music, the costumes and the atmosphere make for an unforgettable evening of exceptional British culture, and what better place to experience such talent and magnificence than London’s West End?
One of the reasons that make ‘Theatreland’ so special is because throughout London’s constant evolution, the love for performance has never changed, making it such a fundamental aspect of the capital’s culture.
History of London’s Theatres
London’s theatres have a rich history and date back to 1576, when James Burbage constructed the first public playhouse in Shoreditch known as ‘The Theatre’, which was closely followed by ‘The Curtain’ both of which are famously known to have been used by William Shakespeare’s company.
However, London’s West End was not officially recognised as the theatre district until a variety of small theatre venues were opened in the early 19th century, including the arrival of the Adelphi Theatre in The Strand in 1806. The popularity of the theatrical arts continued to thrive causing a theatre-building boom up until the early 20th century, just before the outbreak of World War One. Throughout the 19th century, many productions were held in small theatre clubs for the sake of avoiding the Lord Chamberlain’s office’s censorships of theatre performances; this censorship of the stage was eventually eradicated by The Theatres Act 1968.
The Current Success of the West End’s Theatre District
Nowadays, London’s ‘Theatreland’ comprises about 42 venues and is acclaimed for showcasing the ultimate standard of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world, along with New York’s Broadway.
The length of a performance’s showing highly depends on ticket sales; West End shows including The Lion King and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory resulted in more tickets being sold in 2013 than in earlier years, with ticket sales making an impressive £14.5 million. However, Les Misérables takes the spotlight when it comes to records as it is the longest running musical in the history of the West End.
West End Performances Not To Be Missed
As the longest running West End performance in the history of ‘Theatreland’, Les Misérables is an iconic musical that is undeniably worth the visit and is currently playing at the Queen’s Theatre in the trendy area of Soho.
Victoria Palace Theatre in St James’ Park is home to one of the top 10 most recommended shows of right now, Billy Elliot the Musical, the all-singing and all-dancing performance that will make you laugh and cry and will be sure to leave a lasting impression.
If you want to enjoy an epic theatrical performance while quenching your thirst for history, then a visit to New London Theatre to see War Horse will not disappoint, especially considering The Daily Telegraph declared that ‘genius isn’t too strong a word to describe this astonishing production.’
The creators of ‘South Park’ have brought one of the funniest and ground-breaking shows to London’s West End, The Book of Mormon. This performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Piccadilly Circus will guarantee tears of laughter and is definitely one to add to the list of must-see musicals.
It would not be a guide to London’s West End performances without mentioning the spectacle that is The Lion King; showing at the Lyceum Theatre, this musical adapted from the renowned Disney film exceeds expectations, The New York Times has even claimed that ‘there is nothing else like it.’