I am an A-Grade homosexual, ticking all the homosexual boxes. Obsessions with teenage female pop stars – tick. Not being able to walk past a sex shop without buying a bottle of Poppers – tick. Quoting ‘Mean Girls’ at every available opportunity (“Is butter a carb?” ) – tick. But when it comes to musical-loving, I am not part of the team. The idea of visiting the West End to “check out” a production of Shrek: The Musical or, heaven forbid, We Will Rock You, fills me with unparalleled levels of nausea. Despite all the shade I throw to the West End musical scene, I absolutely love theatre: physical theatre, contemporary dance, kids’ theatre and new writing in particular.
Next time you’re in London Town, stray from the obvious London theatre scene and check out some of these incredible venues. You won’t regret it – pinkie promise.
The Royal Court
Although it is home to London’s insufferable posh sponge-off-Daddy set, Sloane Square is a London neighbourhood that you should visit solely because it is the home of this exceptional theatre. The Royal Court is without doubt my favourite theatre in the whole of the capital, and has been committed to showcasing the work of new playwrights since the 1950s. Some of the world-class plays that have premiered at the Royal Court include John Osborne’s ‘Look Back In Anger’, Martin Sherman’s ‘Bent’, and Sarah Kane’s ‘Blasted’. Both the interior and exterior of the theatre are stunning, but don’t be fooled by the old-school glamour of its red velvet curtains, the Royal Court is a fiercely modern playhouse that is not afraid to take risks. Head to the Royal Court on Mondays to take advantage of their £10 ticket offer.
There is one must visit destination for fans of dance in this capital city – Sadler’s Wells. This theatre brings the very best in international and UK dance talent to their London stage, so whether it’s passionate flamenco dance from Spain, contemporary dance from upcoming local dance groups, or all-male ballet (that I probably love for all the wrong reasons) that gets you excited, you’ll find it at this theatre. This is also a venue that doesn’t shy away from putting on controversial shows; I once attended a performance in which naked men crawled all over the audience – it was bonkers and almost half the audience left during the show.
Battersea Arts Centre
Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) is a performance venue that many Londoners don’t even know about. It’s a small but fantastic space on Lavender Hill near Clapham Junction, and a visit to BAC is virtually the only reason I’d cross the river to South London. What makes Battersea Arts Centre so special? It’s a small space and you can guarantee that every performance staged here is a work of new writing. Not only this, but BAC offer rehearsal space and office space at subsidised rates for up and coming theatre groups – they are true enablers of the brilliant theatre scene in Britain. What’s more, if you visit on a Tuesday you only pay what you can afford; a brillz night out for backpackers on a budget.
It might seem strange, but I have a real soft spot for kids’ theatre. In my opinion, children’s theatre does colour, movement, and song in far more sophisticated ways than London’s West End. If you have kids, or if like me you are partial to the odd children’s theatre performance, I implore you to pay a visit to the Unicorn Theatre on London’s Southbank. You can expect classic and contemporary tales, plays for toddlers and teenagers, naturalism and puppetry alike.
Ask who I think our greatest national treasure is and I will answer Ginger Spice every time. I *suppose* that William Shakespeare is a close second. The Globe is the theatre known for putting on Shakespeare’s plays way back in the 17th century. In 1997, the Globe was fully restored and opened its doors to a paying audience again. Every summer, this theatre puts on a handful of Shakespeare plays to a thoroughly engaged audience. I highly recommend purchasing a £5 standing ticket for the true Shakespearian experience – just make sure you have the legs for it, Shakespeare plays are often around the 3 hour mark.
And that’s my guide to the London theatre venues that I find particularly special. I hope you visit them some day and are wowed by their performances just as I have been on countless occasions.
Which is your favourite theatre in London?