Have you been past London’s Shaftesbury Theatre lately and noticed significant building refurb work? Don’t worry – & Juliet will be back in the autumn looking more radiant than a summer’s day! And soon, you’ll start to notice some pretty major changes to the theatre. In the pipeline are upgraded rest rooms and improved accessibility. There will be a beautiful new subterranean stalls bar with conference facilities. You won’t notice all the differences straight away, however, lockdown is allowing work to proceed at lightning speed. Over the next 18 months, the theatre will become a destination for theatre lovers by day and night. Expect dining facilities and a newly pedestrianised pavement terrace with gorgeous café. We’re so excited to be able to share a video explaining what’s coming up!
What is under the Shaftesbury Theatre?
The Shaftesbury Theatre is digging down through literally hundreds of years of history. That seems appropriate for a theatre that’s currently home to the Shakespeare-themed musical & Juliet. This week is the 457th birthday of the late, great ‘Bard of Avon’. So, what better time to look at the theatre that features William Shakespeare in a leading role?
The Shaftesbury Theatre stage door is on Grape Street (once called Vine Street). This may derive from the name of “Le Vyne” house which belonged to the nearby leper hospital of St Giles in the Field. However, a more bawdy explanation is an early 13th Century recording of the names ‘Gropecontelane’ and ‘Groppecountlane’. We’ll leave you to guess the somewhat indecent meaning. This eventually became Grape Lane, thus disguising the saucy night-time goings on in the area. It’s not impossible that Shakespeare himself may have paid the lane a night-time visit…
As entertaining as the second explanation might be, the fact is, vineyards did once grow on this spot. The area is particularly fertile and vines were even mentioned in the Domesday Book. Vineyards were once a major feature of central London life, possibly a legacy of Roman colonies. There are still numerous Vine Streets across the city, including in nearby Piccadilly.
What will the new Shaftesbury Theatre look like?
To truly appreciate just how amazing the new Shaftesbury Theatre will be, check out this vimeo explaining the Shaftesbury Theatre refurb. It’s an internally produced film, but we’ve been given permission to share it with you. It offers a flavour of what to expect. The theatre’s Chief Executive, James Williams, explains why so much excavation work is happening. We’re most excited to see the new road layout. This will turn what was once a traffic hub into an oasis of calm. We’re already picturing ourselves sipping a cappuccino in the sun. Click on the image to watch the film.
When will & Juliet return?
If you didn’t see the outstanding new musical & Juliet before lockdown, now’s your chance! & Juliet is a multiple Olivier Award winning musical. The show brilliantly fuses the biggest pop anthems of the last 30 years with a Shakespeare inspired tale of self-discovery. Songs are from acclaimed songwriter Max Martin. They include …Baby One More Time, Everybody (Backstreet’s back), Love Me Like You Do and Can’t Feel My Face. Arrangements are by Tony and Grammy Award-winning orchestrator Bill Sherman. Book is by David West Read (Schitt’s Creek). This is a spectacular, uplifting musical that you simply cannot miss. The show roars back on 24th September 2021 and you can book tickets for & Juliet now.
ABBA MANIA is coming to the Shaftesbury Theatre
That’s right! The exhilarating ABBA musical tribute returns to the West End this spring. You can dance, you can jive to ABBA MANIA. You’ll have the time of your life! This is the world’s number one touring ABBA tribute. The show opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre on Friday 21st May and you can book tickets for ABBA MANIA now! ABBA MANIA is an exhilarating two-hour recreation of ABBA’s last ever concert. Uplifting, heartbreaking and totally dance-inducing! ABBA MANIA brings the decadent flamboyance of the 70s to life! Rediscover the Swedish Supergroup who gave birth to hit musical Mamma Mia! The show is here for a very limited run while & Juliet rehearsals begin, so don’t miss out!
A safe environment and improved access
Key to the safe return of theatregoing is the Shaftesbury Theatre’s new state of the art air conditioning system. This completely replaces the air in the auditorium every 8 minutes. The theatre will be operating in line with the SOLT See it Safely guidance. When the refurbishment is complete, there will be improved access backstage. There’s also a lift from street to stage level. This includes a fully accessible dressing room. Front of house, there will be a patron lift to the Stalls. This will allow up to thirteen patrons to occupy wheelchair accessible spaces. Patrons can then attend alone or with a group, and will enjoy far greater flexibility.
Exciting times lie ahead for the Shaftesbury Theatre. Things may look a little different on your next visit. There might be a little disruption, but it’s going to be so worth it! Shakespeare understood just how important our amazing theatre buildings are. We think The Bard would definitely approve of the Shaftesbury Theatre refurb. So, it’s fitting that he’ll soon be back on the stage where it happens. We’re so lucky to have the most beautiful theatres in the world. And the Shaftesbury Theatre is going to be amongst the very best.
Love Shakespeare? Check out our fun Shakepeare or Jake Shears Theatre Quiz! Want to see just how resilient London’s theatres truly are? Take a look at these 10 times London theatres closed but bounced back better.