Theatre in London

London's love affair with Theatre and performance

London Theatre.... a brief snapshot of history

  • Plays were originally performed in inn's, college halls and private houses at the start of the Elizabethan era in the late 1550's.
  • The first purpose built theatre was built in Shoreditch by James Burrage in 1576. The theatre was pulled down in 1598
  • Shakespeare's original Globe was built in 1599, burnt down in 1613, rebuilt and then pulled down in 1644 it closed in 1642.
  • In 1642 the long parliament ordered the closure of all theatres in England, actors were treated as rogues and spectators were fined for attending plays.
  • In 1660, King Charles II was restored to power, the theatrical ban was lifted and two London theatres with royal licences were opened.
  • 1662 was the first recorded performance of "Punch and Judy" in Covent Garden, in Samuel Pepy's diary. Every year, one day during May, St Paul's in Covent Garden hold the annual May Fayre and Puppet Festival.
  • The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the oldest theatre site in London and was first built in 1663, it survived the Plague and Great Fire of London in 1666 before burning down on its own right in 1672 and rebuilt in 1674.The current theatre standing today was rebuilt in 1812.

London Theatre.....the present time

  • London's theatre district, known as the "West End" has approximately 40 theatres all showing musicals and plays at any one time.
  • The West End is the most popularly attended theatre scene in the world attracting close to 15,000,000 people annually and regularly out performing its global rival "Broadway" in New York.
  • London also has a massive theatre scene outside the West End, with well over 120 venues from small backroom pubs to larger theatres performing plays and musicals. 
  • Pantimime Season is a British tradition and runs between December to February. These are musical comedy productions based on traditional fairytales, designed for family and involving audience participation in the way of singing or shouting (usually at the villain). The Big Panto Guide is good resource to find some of the pantomimes on.
  • Shakespeare's Globe was rebuilt as close to the original venue as possible and opened at a nearby site 1997. It is the only building in London allowed to have a thatched roof since the Great Fire in 1666 with the aim of best replicated a Shakespeare theatre experience from the 1600's that people can enjoy today. 


money saving tips for getting london theatre tickets Getting Tickets (with some money saving tips)

The best way to get tickets is online and this can easily be done through the following websites Encore, Ticketmaster, Love Theatre and Theatre Tickets Direct.

Leicester Square has famous ticket booths where you can queue to buy discounted tickets on the day.

Myboxoffice is a website that offers very low cost theatre, live music, comedy tickets (sometimes just the cost of the administration fee) for less mainstream shows but you never know what my pop that will interest your taste buds. 

OffWestend is a good resource for non West End shows, while Big Panto Guide is good for pantomimes held during the winter period.

Kids Week: If you have children look out for kids Week during the month of August as children under 16 get into Top shows for free provided they are accompanied by a paying adult. Plan ahead and book tickets a couple of months in advance.

Quirky Story/Fact about London Theatre

Pope John Paul II wrote a play called "The Jeweler's Shop" that played at the Westminster Theatre in 1982!