Visit London Blog » Theatre Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 22 Dec 2014 16:40:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 London Theatre News: Made In Dagenham, Memphis, In The Heights, Ruthie Henshall, Arthur Darvill, Stephen Ward, Let The Right One In Wed, 05 Mar 2014 12:30:49 +0000

My latest load of London theatre news is more musical than an old fashioned jewellery box.

Hot off the press is the missive that the much rumoured Made In Dagenham musical, based on the hit British film, is driving into the West End with acclaimed director Rupert Goold at the steering wheel and British big screen star Gemma Arterton in the passenger seat as his leading lady. It will open at the Adelphi Theatre, currently playing host to The Bodyguard, this autumn.

Current star of The Bodyguard, UK soul sensation Beverley Knight, has got a taste for the London stage having made her debut in the Whitney Houston musical. She’ll lead the cast of the Tony Award-winning Memphis when it opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre in October.

Another Tony Award-winning tuner, In The Heights, receives its London debut at the Southwark Playhouse this May.

Musical theatre superstar Ruthie Henshall, who’s previously stunned audiences in shows including Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and Chicago, is heading back to the stage to play dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot The Musical from 12 May.

Arthur Darvill, who may not be a musical theatre superstar just yet – give it time – but is certainly well known to anyone with a passing interest in sci-fi or family television having played Rory in Doctor Who, is taking to the London stage in Once. The actor and musician will play Guy, a role he previously played on Broadway, from 17 March.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward, which explores the story of the Profumo Affair, has announced the curtain will come down on its tale of scandal and scapegoats in late March.

In non-musical news, the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of vampire tale Let The Right One In will bring its story of unlikely friendship and brutal attacks to the Apollo Shaftesbury from 26 March.

Oooh, almost forgot, tune into the Olivier Awards website or Official London Theatre on 10 March from 11:30 (GMT) to discover who’s been nominated for this year’s Olivier Awards with MasterCard.

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What’s On This Weekend: 10-12 January Mon, 06 Jan 2014 11:00:49 +0000 London Ice Sculpting Festival

There’s plenty to help you beat any lingering post-festive blues this weekend, with an eclectic line-up of festivals and the chance to buy discounted tickets to some of London’s top West End theatre shows. And it’s not every day a new playhouse puts on its premiere show.

Get in quick for cut-price theatre

War HorseIt’s not just London’s shops that are ripe for a bargain this time of the year; the January sales extend to the stage with Get into London Theatre. Featuring cut-price entry to shows across the city, from hit West End musicals to lesser-known works, the scheme lets you discover the likes of War Horse or the smooth moves of Dirty Dancing’s Johnny Castle for less. Booking is now open with tickets available from as little as £10. Ends 13 Feb.

Silver screen shorts

The first major film festival of the year in the capital, the London Short Film Festival boasts an array of short films from some of the country’s best emerging talents. Grab your popcorn and snuggle up in the warmth at one of London’s independent cinemas to see the latest flick, or make the most of other events such as live music, talks and discussions. Now in its 11th year, the festival also includes a number of free events for those who are suffering the

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ravages of the January sales. 10-19 Jan.

Ice, ice baby…

Many of us will curse the bitter mid-winter, but some delight in it. Ice carvers are one such set who have battled the mercury to perfect their craft. See their sparkling creations for free at the London Ice Sculpting Festival at Canary Wharf this weekend, as teams of carvers take on each other to be crowned champions. 10-12 Jan.

London International Mime Festival 2014Shhh! It’s time for mime

Marvel at mime artists in a series of productions in the London International Mime Festival this weekend. Become enchanted by French company Compagnie Non Nova, who make ordinary plastic bags come to life in ballet moves one moment and embody demons in the eye of a storm the next at the Platform Theatre. Compatriots Compagnie MPTA transcends video, dance and circus acts in their captivating production, A Bas Bruit, in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre. While across the river in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, Swedish mime master Jakop Ahlbom brings the silent movie to the stage. 8 Jan-1 Feb.

The Duchess raises the curtain

First performed by Shakespeare’s King’s Men in the original Blackfriars theatre, the Duchess of Malfi is now playing a part in maintaining Shakespearian influence as the curtain-raiser for the much anticipated Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the new indoor venue at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This atmospheric, candlelit space provides the perfect backdrop to the macabre Jacobean tragedy full of resentment and revenge. Visitors to the 350-seater auditorium can get close to the action in the pit, evoking a similar experience to that of the Blackfriars playhouse in the celebrated bard’s time. 9 Jan-16 Feb.

More events in London

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What’s On This Weekend: 3-5 January Mon, 30 Dec 2013 10:00:30 +0000 Winter Wonderland

Prolong the holiday season this weekend with the last of festive pleasures such as ice skating, Christmas markets and decorations. Shopaholics will be hitting London’s boutiques and big name stores for the January sales this weekend. It’s also not too late to see a pantomime before the kids head back to school: “oh yes it is…oh no it isn’t!”

Get Your Skates On

If you haven’t already, it’s time to head to the Bluebird ice rink in Chelsea before it closes on Sunday. Set in a charming courtyard, the rink is the perfect place for a mid-shopping pit stop amid the hubbub of January sales along Kings Road. Skate amongst the stylish locals before delving inside The Shop at Bluebird for some trendy clothing. The larger ice rinks at the Natural History Museum, the Tower of London and Somerset House also close for another year this weekend, so get your skates on (all end 5 Jan).

Natural History Museum ice skatingPeter Pan-tastic

Peter Pan fanatics will be spoilt for choice this weekend. Young ones will have the chance to see Peter, Wendy and co. in Peter Pan: The Never Ending Story at Wembley Arena (ends 4 Jan); over-sevens can see what happens when Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Pleasance Theatre Islington (ends 5 Jan); while Henry Winkler continues to star as Captain Hook in Richmond Theatre’s production of J. M. Barrie’s classic pantomime for all the family (ends 12 Jan).

Last Chance to Walk in Winter Wonderland

One of the highlights of the Christmas calendar in London, Winter Wonderland is crammed full of market stalls, rides and festive eats and drinks. While Christmas may be over, there’s still plenty to see before the Hyde Park attraction hibernates for another year, from the spectacular Magical Ice Kingdom with its glistening ice formations to the far-reaching views from the Giant Observation Wheel (ends 5 Jan).

Push the Boat Out at ExCeL

The London Boat Show takes up residency in ExCeL for eight days from Saturday with plenty of water-based fun. Whether you’re looking to buy a super yacht, brush up on some sailing skills, or simply to marvel at the incredible boats on display, it’s a great chance to mingle with the boating community and learn about what’s new this year (4-12 Jan).

Cirque du Soleil: QuidamHead Over Heels at Royal Albert Hall

The master acrobats and contortionists of Cirque du Soleil return to the Royal Albert Hall this weekend in their spellbinding performance of Quidam. The show follows the story of Zoe, a young girl bored with life and her unloving parents, who finds solace in an imaginary world full of mysterious characters (4 Jan-9 Feb).

Say Cheerio to Christmas at Geffrye Museum

Make the most of Christmas decorations before you grudgingly take yours down on the Twelfth Night this Sunday – it’s apparently bad luck not to – with a trip to the Geffrye Museum. Its Christmas Past exhibit concludes in time for Epiphany and showcases decorations through the years in its lovingly adorned rooms. If you go on Sunday, you can time your visit with the museum’s customary Farewell to Christmas carol singing and burning of holly and ivy to officially mark the end of the festive season (ends 5 Jan).


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London Video of the Week: The Lion King Sat, 14 Dec 2013 10:00:35 +0000

See behind-the-scenes of hit West End musical The Lion King in this fascinating video, narrated by London actor and singer Shaun Escoffery who is currently starring in the show as Mufasa.

Meet more London characters like Shaun for a chance to win a dream trip to the capital for two. Find out more here.

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Top Tips for Going to the Theatre in London Thu, 30 May 2013 09:00:07 +0000

You’ve got your tickets to London’s hottest show, but haven’t a clue what to wear, or how much time you need to get to the theatre! Luckily, Matthew Amer, Senior Editor at is on hand to give first time theatregoers his top tips:

“I’ve been working in West End theatre for a decade. I was fresh to the scene when I first set foot in the hallowed foyers of London’s incredible venues. I’d been a regular theatergoer before, of course, but not in London. Not in the famous West End. I didn’t know quite what to expect. I was unsure exactly how to act. I’ve learned a lot since then:

  1. It really doesn’t matter what you wear. When I first experienced the magic of going to the West End as a child, it was as a once a year treat we spent months looking forward to. The whole family would dress in their best clothes; this was our special night out, after all. For many theatergoers I’m sure this is still the case, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, wear that. I’ve seen theatregoers in shorts, vests, fancy dress. If you’re happy, and you’re not making anyone else unhappy, it really doesn’t matter.
  2. Give yourself time. There’s honestly nothing worse than getting caught on the Tube or stuck in traffic and realising you’re going to miss the start of the show. Your heart rate goes up, you start to sweat, you check your watch every 10 seconds. Where’s the fun in that? Get there early and relax. You can always find a bar, pub or restaurant to keep yourself amused in, this is London after all.
  3. If you want interval drinks – and who doesn’t? – you can often order them before the show. That way you avoid what can be a very long wait at the bar, which makes that drink taste all the sweeter.
  4. If you want to avoid the rest of the audience staring at you and tutting during the show’s most dramatic moment, turn your phone off! There is nothing more embarrassing than sitting in a near-silent theatre, everyone absorbed in one of the year’s finest performances, only to hear a Europop ringtone blaring from your pocket. Avoid that feeling of wanting to sink into your chair and turn it off at the start.

“Looking back now, it seems obvious. But back then, as a timid young thing, this was the most important information I could learn. Hopefully it can help you too.”

For the latest theatre news, interviews and show information, check out

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Visiting the Past: London Theatre in 1800 Tue, 28 May 2013 09:00:09 +0000 astleys_250If you wanted to go to the theatre in London in 1800, you had two choices: you could go to see a formal play at a licenced theatre, or go to one of the city’s many illegitimate theatres.

At the start of the 19th century London’s theatres were divided by law. Two London theatres had royal patents, which allowed them to stage “legitimate drama” like Shakespeare and classical Greek plays. But Londoners also wanted to to see melodramas, music, and sensational performances on stage. London’s other, so-called “illegitimate”, theatres were happy to oblige.

Astley’s Ampitheatre was a popular choice with Londoners. It got around the theatre laws by concentrating on spectacular and daring performances instead of formal drama. Astley’s was south of the river, not far from where Waterloo Station is now. At the start of the 19th century, this meant it was on the edge of the city. Astley’s had plenty of space to keep horses, and had a reputation for its amazing equestrian melodramas. One of its most popular performers was Andrew Ducrow, who was brave and skilful.


London’s theatres were expensive to run, and there was a great deal of competition for audiences. Playbills like these were used to advertise entertainment, giving exuberant descriptions of different acts.

War HorseAs time went on the law was relaxed. By the middle of the 19th century the law was changed, and theatres had more freedom. Nowadays London’s theatrical landscape is more diverse, and plays can move between London’s theatres. War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time are two examples of successful plays that have been performed in more than one London theatre.

Today, London has a thriving theatre scene – take a look at what’s on.

A guest post by the Museum of London as part of our Visiting the Past series. More London history next week.

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Where To See Outdoor Theatre and Opera in London Fri, 17 May 2013 09:57:58 +0000 Not only does London boast a world-leading range of theatres and opera houses, but you can also watch many fantastic productions in the great outdoors, at a variety of stunning venues around the city. Some of them are even completely free, but for many events it’s highly recommended that you book in advance.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

One of London’s most popular outdoor entertainment venues is the enchanting Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. This amphitheatre is completely exposed to the elements, and there are few more atmospheric places to watch theatre than in the dusky confines of the Regent’s Park, with London’s bright lights seemingly a world away. Productions this year include To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice and The Sound of Music, and pre-theatre dining options include pre-packed picnics and a barbecue. Until 8 Sep

The Scoop at More London

Situated just by London Mayor Boris Johnson’s office by Tower Bridge, this sunken theatre is host to a plethora of free entertainment during the summer. From Wednesday to Sunday you can see free open air theatre here in the evenings, and this year there will two short productions based on the ancient Greek city of Thebes. A family production of the Prince of Thebes takes place at 6pm, followed by a more adult staging of Oedipus and Antigone at 8pm. 7 Aug-1 Sep 

Opera Holland Park

Every summer a marquee is erected in front of the glorious Holland House, allowing visitors the chance to watch wonderful operas in the grounds of Holland Park without getting wet! As well as seeing productions such as Madam Butterfly, the Pearl Fishers and new family opera Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you can also enjoy a pre-prepared picnic in their alfresco dining areas beforehand. 4 Jun -3 Aug

Fitzroy Square Opera

For one night a year, Fitzroy Square Opera brings the magic of traditional country house opera to London. This year, on 27 June, you can sit in this luscious square in Fitzrovia and enjoy a production of Bizet’s Carmen. You can also order a pre-prepared picnic (£22), enjoy freshly cooked paella in the interval or simply avail yourself of the cash bar.

Shakespeare’s Globe, Southbank

At this incredible reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre you can choose whether you have a fully outdoor or partially indoor theatrical experience! The stage is situated under the sky, but there are seats available within the covered theatre section if you don’t feel like standing in the exposed middle with the ‘groundlings’. Scheduled for 2013 are favourites such as King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, and you can buy standing tickets for just £5. Until 28 Sep

Theatre in the Square with Lyric Hammersmith

Watch live outdoor theatre for free in the Lyric Square, Hammersmith, thanks to a festival staged by five of the country’s most exciting theatre companies. A collaboration between HammersmithLondon, Lyric Hammersmith, Latitude festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and Watford Palace Theatre, this festival is sure to offer innovative, enjoyable and eccentric entertainment. Keep an eye on the theatre’s What’s On section for more details. 12 Jun-5 Jul

BP Summer Screens

The BP Summer Screens bring one of London’s most exclusive indoor venues – Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House – to the great outdoors. Better still – screenings are free! You can see the ballet Mayerling (13 June) or operas La Rondine (11 July) and Tosca (18 July) in outdoor spaces such as Trafalgar Square, Canary Wharf and Woolwich.

Chiswick House and Gardens

You can watch both opera and theatre alfresco at the beautiful Chiswick House and Gardens, which stages a range of both as part of its excellent events programme. During July you can catch productions of Carmen, Gulliver’s Travels and A Little of What You Fancy! on the rear lawn of the House. Tickets are £30 and full details are available on the venue website.

Fulham Palace

On 7 July take the whole family to Fulham Palace for a theatre production of Babe: the Sheep Pig which is sure to delight both adults and children alike. Taking place in the Walled Garden, the production starts at 2pm and tickets cost £8 for children or £12 for adults.

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival

London’s biggest festival of outdoor theatre runs from 21 to 29 June and brings performers to the parks and streets of Greenwich and the surrounding area. You can see everything from street dance to aerial theatre at the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival – take a look at our pick of the highlights here.

More London theatre

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Interview with Sally Dexter from Viva Forever! Wed, 15 May 2013 10:00:14 +0000 Sally DexterSally Dexter plays Simone in Viva Forever!, the Spice Girls musical currently running at the Piccadilly Theatre. The acclaimed actress won an Olivier award for Dalliance at the National Theatre and was Olivier-nominated for her performances in Sam Mendes’ Oliver! and for Closer at the National. She has performed lead roles in several major West End musicals including Billy Elliot and Sister Act.

What’s your favourite song from Viva Forever!?
At the moment my favourite song is “Who Do You Think You Are?” Jennifer’s [Saunders] put it in great context and written a fantastic scene around it; one minute it’s funny, the next minute it’s like a fight between all of us. It’s very exciting to enact and the audience respond really strongly to it.

Why do you think the Spice Girls songs are so popular?
I think the Spice Girls songs are the embodiment of fun and optimism. The Spice Girls aren’t afraid to aim high and go for their goals, while encouraging others to do the same. They shine a bright light in what sometimes seems a bit of a dull world!

What does performing in London’s West End mean to you?
It’s incredibly handy – a quick pedal up the hill on my bicycle and I’m there! That aside, London’s West End is a vibrant multicultural hub – and it’s amazing to be part of a phenomenal theatrical history that goes way back.

Do you prefer TV or stage work?
TV and stage work present different challenges, both of which I enjoy.

If you weren’t playing Simone in Viva Forever!, what other role would you like to play on stage at the moment?
Oh my – how long have you got?! There are a million things I’d like to do, but I feel strangely shy about talking about specific plays or shows – I must be more superstitious than I thought! I love working on classical texts. I love Mr Shakespeare and Mr Chaucer. I’ve never done a Chekhov, Tennessee Williams or Lorca play – or a full Greek Tragedy. I also passionately want to do a gig or two.

What part of a musical do you most enjoy – the dancing, singing or acting?
Singing! And acting is naturally at the heart of it anyway.

Do you have any lucky charms or rituals before you go on stage?
Mostly practical stuff – I fill up an old contact lens case with vital throat moistening sweets and pop them down my frontage because I don’t have any pockets. And I always put the left shoe on first – I’ve no idea why!

Why should London theatre-goers choose to see Viva Forever!?
Viva Forever is a fun party that everyone’s invited to. It’s the sort of party you don’t want to leave because you’re having too much fun – and the music is great. Come along and boogie!

Viva Forever! is currently playing at the Piccadilly Theatre. You can book tickets to see Viva Forever! here. You can follow Viva Forever! on twitter: @vivaforever

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Evening Standard Theatre Awards: The Winners Tue, 27 Nov 2012 10:54:50 +0000

The famous faces in The Savoy ballroom on Sunday night were enough to make anyone a bit giddy. I was lucky to join stars Judi Dench, Anna Wintour, Bill Nighy, Damian Lewis, Ian McKellen, Colin Firth and Danny Boyle to celebrate the capital’s best theatre, at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2012.

Compere James Corden opened the ceremony with a cheeky song called “For the love of awards”, reminding us that he has a tip-top singing voice as well as plenty of wit. The night had some serious moments too: double award-winner Nicholas Hytner spoke passionately in support of public funding for the arts, and Judi Dench was moved by a special award.


Judi Dench

Everyone’s favourite Bond matriarch was awarded the Moscow Art Theatre Golden Seagull Award, a golden bird-shaped broach that signifies her achievements in bringing London theatre to the world’s attention. “I’ll never take it off,” she declared.

Danny Boyle

After he got the Queen to jump out of a helicopter (or so it seemed) in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, it’s fitting that Danny Boyle’s extraordinary £27 million production should get special recognition. He and his team scooped up the Beyond Theatre Award for pushing the boundaries of theatre with the ceremony, which was arguably the best – and certainly the biggest – performance of the year.

Nicholas Hytner

The director of the National Theatre picked up the Best Director award for setting the little-known Shakespeare play Timon of Athens in modern times. Hytner also won the Lebedev Special Award in recognition of his ten-year leadership of the National Theatre, which has seen him bring War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors to the stage.

One to watch – Matthew Tennyson

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Hardy won the Outstanding Newcomer Award in their early days, so it’s worth keeping your eye on young actor Matthew Tennyson who won this year’s prize for his role in Making Noise Quietly at the Donmar Warehouse.


The Judas Kiss

The Judas Kiss, a play about Oscar Wilde was on everyone’s lips at the awards, despite not being nominated. It received glowing praise from National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner, who described Rupert Everett’s performance as one of the best on the London stage for years.


Writer Nick Payne won the award for Best Play for Constellations, becoming the youngest person to the category at just 29. It’s a tender story of love, awkwardness and string theory, using physics as a metaphor for life.

Sweeney Todd

Named Best Musical at the awards, this tale of a homicidal barber could convince even those allergic to musical theatre to burst into song. Stephen Sondheim’s score for Sweeney Todd is delicious in its complexity, and leading duo Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton are musical royalty.

Have you seen any of the award-winners? Or have you seen some theatre recently that deserves an award?

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What’s On This Weekend in London: 20-22 July 2012 Thu, 19 Jul 2012 11:30:11 +0000

This weekend is the last before the Olympics begin – make sure you soak up all the culture London has to offer before the city goes sport mad.

BT River of Music
The BT River of Music is a huge weekend music festival is a one-off to welcome the world to the Olympic city. Six stages – each hosting music from a different continent – will be set up along the Thames at venues like the Tower of London and Battersea Park. Artists representing every Olympic and Paralmypic nation will perform, including the Scissor Sisters and Noisettes. Tickets are free but you’ve got to book them in advance: at the time of writing, there are still some left for Asia Stage at Battersea Park and Oceania Stage at Old Royal Naval College, and for Africa Stage at London Pleasure Gardens on Sunday only.
21-22 Jul

Blue Peter’s Big Olympic Tour
Catch Blue Peter presenters Helen and Barney this weekend on the kids TV show’s Big Olympic Tour. They’ve been following the Olympic torch on its journey around the UK for special live programmes and events, and will touch down in Central Park in East Ham this Saturday and Sunday. From 10am to 4pm, there’ll be free family activities like Olympic sports, learning about the history of the Games and having a go at being a sports commentator.
21-22 Jul

Shakespeare: Staging the World at The British Museum
The British Museum has teamed up with the Royal Shakespeare Company for this major Shakespeare exhibition which explores the playwright’s London through his plays. It gives a taste of what going to the theatre was like 400 years ago, and how it connected London with the rest of the world as international trade, colonisation and diplomacy increased. The exhibition includes performance and objects from paintings and rare manuscripts to everyday items like maps and coins, all piecing together the world of the famous dramatist and his characters.
Until 25 Nov

Floating Market on Regent’s Canal
From tomorrow, a magnificent floating market will moored in Mile End near the Olympic Park. A collection of narrowboats and barges will be selling everything from books and hats to vintage frocks and handicrafts. If strolling along the official Olympic walking route makes you peckish, you can sample various foodie delights on offer, including sausages from a barge called “Marilyn”, Slovakian delicacies from “Vareska” and a selection of candyfloss, popcorn and other fun-fair based treats from The Zebra Boat.
20 Jul-16 Aug

What will you be doing this weekend? Let us know by commenting below.

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