How To Choose The Perfect Show for Mother’s Day

Mums come in all shapes and sizes – and one size most definitely does not fit all! Treat that special person in your life this Mother’s Day with a trip to London’s glittering West End: Mums can be step-mums, carers, gran, a special aunt, friend or, let’s face it, even your Dad in a pair of kinky boots! So, show someone you care about them this Mothering Sunday with our tips on what to see – for every type of Mum!

TIP
Many shows don’t perform on Sundays so we think it’s best to book ahead for a future date, then just pop your tickets in a lovely Mother’s Day card and you’ll be sure they have something special to look forward to later in the year!

Classical Mum
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The King and I – Treat your Mum to this sumptuous revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. Opens June 2018
The Sleeping Beauty – English National Ballet present Tchaikovsky’s Fairytale classic. From June 2018.
London Philharmonic Orchestra – choose from any of this world-renowned orchestra’s classical concert series.

Serial Mom
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Chicago –Hollywood stars, greed, corruption and choreography to die for!
The Mousetrap – There’s a dead body, but who dunnit? Perfect for the even the most murderous mum.
Little Shop of Horrors – The carnivorous musical heads to the Regents Park open air theatre – a killer treat for any mum this summer.

 

Camp as T*ts Mum
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Strictly Ballroom – Baz Luhrmann’s classic musical tangos on to the West End stage in May.
Kinky Boots – get out those killer heels and strut on down to the Adelphi Theatre for the West End’s most fabulous night out!
There’s Something about Jamie – If you like your musicals gender-fluid then don’t miss this heartbreaking, funny and gorgeous show about coming of age and breaking down doors!
Songs For Nobodies – Bernadette Robinson brings Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and every other Diva you can image to the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall. Don’t miss it!


Rock Mom
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Bat Out of Hell – The surprise hit of last summer – this big brash beast of a show is back in April!
School of Rock – Laugh, cry and rock it out! This Broadway smash is still rocking the New London!

 

Showgirl Mum
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42nd Street – Come and meet those dancing feet! Glitz, glamour and the best tap dancing you’ll ever see!
Dancing on Ice Live Tour Get your skates on! Wherever you are, this year’s tour is coming to a town near you!

 

Mum-A-Mia!
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Mamma Mia! – What better way to tell your Mum you love her than with an Abba song?
Tina – No Proud Mary can miss this rags to riches life story of Tina Turner.
Dreamgirls – Unleash your mum’s inner-diva with this tale of the music industry making stars and breaking hearts.

 

Romantic Weepy Mum
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Phantom of the Opera – The West End’s greatest love story will leave you reaching for the tissues.
Les Miserables – If you’ve seen it before, go again…and again…and again.
Brief Encounter – the classic film comes to life on stage. We adored it and now it’s back!

Thinking Mum
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Chess
– Not just a game but one of Musical Theatre’s finest scores – and it’s got Michael Ball in it!
Company – Classy, sassy, smart and starring Mel from Bakeoff as well as Broadway legend Patti Lupone.
The Grinning Man – Brilliant puppetry and even more brilliant humans!

Culture Mum
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Tartuffe
– Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Moliere’s comedic masterpiece relocates to Tinseltown but loses none of its wit.
Lady Windermere’ Fan – Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy of manners exposes the hypocrisy of Victorian society, with help from Jennifer Saunders.


Laugh Out Loud Mum
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The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
– screwball comedy, slick farce and a bank heist that couldn’t possibly go wrong…
The Play That Goes Wrong – now a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the title tells you all you need to know!

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration? And to all the mums, aunts, carers, grans, and kinky-booted dads out there…A Very Happy Mother’s Day!

Going to see Chess? Check out our 20 most awesome fan facts!

Autism-Friendly Performances: Broadway and the West End

For people on the autism spectrum, and family members or friends accompanying them, going to the theatre can be a stressful, often frustrating, experience. So it’s great news that performances specially tailored to children and adults on the autism spectrum are being offered by West End and Broadway shows since 2012.

These shows include reduced lighting and sound effects, access to quiet areas, autism specialist volunteers and a relaxed, non-judgmental, environment.

Since the play The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, which is based on a book of the same name and centers on the world as seen by a teenage boy who is a maths genius but has trouble interpreting everyday life, began offering those performances – called ‘relaxed performances’ – other shows started to follow suit. Shrek The Musical was the first West End show to offer a relaxed performance in 2012, followed by Mamma Mia!, Matilda, Cats, The Gruffalo, The Lion King, and many others.

Below is a brief summary of what is a relaxed performance and how to find tickets for the next relaxed performances of West-End and Broadway shows.

What to expect at an autism-friendly performance:

Before the performance, the theatre often provides a guide on what to expect from the show, The Lion King example can be found here. The theatre also gives parents and caregivers information in advance about any scenes with significant sound, lighting or any other material effects, so no one will be surprised.

When theatregoers arrive, specialist volunteers are available to answer questions and provide assistance. They may also hand out stress balls or noise canceling headphones.

Inside the theatre, the setting is more relaxed than at a regular performance. Patrons can leave the auditorium at any time, and quiet areas in the lobby are staffed by volunteers. House lights are dimmed but not turned down all the way. Strobe lights and sudden black outs are eliminated from the show, and loud noises are kept at a minimum.

Autism-friendly performances sometimes offer Q&A’s with the cast after the performance ends. Most importantly, theatre patrons can expect a relaxed, supportive atmosphere where audience participation is encouraged and every effort is made to cater to an autistic audience. Hopefully we’ll see more autism-friendly shows in the near future – after all, theatre is for everyone, right?

How to find out about any upcoming autism-friendly performances:

In the West End and all of London

Next performances:

Disney’s Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre

It will hold its next relaxed performance on Tuesday 29 August, 1.30pm, you can book tickets at their official autism friendly website.

Oliver Twist at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Wednesday 26 July, 10.00am Tickets have now sold-out, but they were FREE. However, should you wish to join a waiting list for returned tickets, please email education@openairtheatre.com with your name, number of tickets you would be interested in, and a contact telephone number.

Adventures In Wonderland at The Vaults Theatre

This multi-sensory show is created and directed specifically for children aged 5-10 and will be running a relaxed performance on the 15th of July 2017 at 10.40am. Tickets are £15.50 to £26.50 (Prices are face value. Fees may apply.)
To book, call The Vaults on 0844 844 2055 (Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) or email info@ebplive.co.uk

Twelfth Night at The Globe Theatre

Cross-dressing, hijinks and bittersweet hilarity ensue as Emma Rice directs Shakespeare’s timeless, soulful and irrepressible comedy. The relaxed performance will be on Thu 27 Jul 2017 at 2pm. Tickets are from £5 to £45 (Fees may apply.) To book call The Globe Theatre on 020 7401 9919 or email access@shakespearesglobe.com

What The Ladybird Heard at the Lyric Theatre

A stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks’ colourful farmyard adventure. Relaxed performance on Tuesday 8 Aug 2pm, tickets from £9.25 (Fees may apply.)
You can book via Nimax Theatres via phone 033 0333 4815 (Calls cost 7p/min plus your telephone company’s network access charge) or email: access@nimaxtheatres.com

To keep up to date with the next relaxed performances:

There are two main organisations involved in the production of relaxed performances in the UK. They host pages with updated information about relaxed performances:

  • The National Autistic Society – Information about next relaxed performances can be found here
  • The Mousetrap Theatre Projects – A charitable organisation that works towards bringing theatre to wider audiences. As of today, there were no future performances scheduled on their website, however any future shows will be updated here.
  • The Society Of London Theatre (SOLT) also hosts a page with the latest listings here.

 

Broadway:

Cats, July 16, 2017 at 2 PM at the Neil Simon Theatre. Click for tickets.

 

An updated list should be available at the Theatre Development Fund website, under their Autism Theatre Initiative page, here.

Relaxed, autism-friendly performances are definitely becoming more popular, so let’s hope we continue seeing more efforts to make theatre accessible to a wider audience in the near future.

Although, if The Phantom of the Opera ever decides to offer a relaxed performance, my sympathy goes out to whoever is responsible for managing that feat (chandeliers nearly falling on audience members, sudden black outs, extremely loud organ chords, and open flames don’t exactly lend themselves to the autism-friendly model). Nevertheless, all in good time.

In conclusion, if you’ve been wanting to take an autistic friend or family member to the theatre, or if you’re a person on the autism spectrum who’s been wanting to attend the theatre – now is the time. Seize the day! (And the tickets!)

Where Does London’s West End END? The answer is in this map

Not all London Theatre is West End, not all West End is THE West End. But how are you supposed to know the difference? We’re here to help you with that.

The term West End is used with no official geographical definition as such, therefore, it varies depending on the subject being discussed.

For example, some people refer to the West End as the Central West part of London.  Ed Glinert’s West End Chronicles (2006)  describes the districts falling within the West End as Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Marylebone. By this definition, the West End borders Temple, Holborn and Bloomsbury to the east, Regent’s Park to the north, Paddington, Hyde Park and Knightsbridge to the west, and Victoria and Westminster to the south. This is a large area in comparison to the Theatreland definition of the West End.

Traditionally, the West End sits within the boundaries of Regent Street, Oxford Street, Kingsway and The Strand. However, The Apollo Victoria and the Victoria Palace Theatre are both also considered “West End Theatres” despite being in Victoria, which is outside this area. They are part of a classification of West End Theatre by means of the ‘type’ of shows they host – Big, blockbuster Andrew Lloyd Webber type of shows. It seems they are self-proclaimed West End Theatres and no one really dared to say otherwise!

Anyhow, If you are planning on getting yourself into a walking self-tour of the West End in a theatrical sense, I’d keep within the classical boundaries, because Victoria is a little bit far to go by foot, and it is also not very pretty as it stands now in 2017, being cramped with construction work – there isn’t much to see there!

A Map Of London's West End
An easy visualisation of London’s iconic Theatre District, the West End, and its boundaries.

Must-See London Theatre 2017: When, Where, Who & Why + How To Book

Mad about Lin-Manuel Miranda? Crazy about Sienna Miller? Intrigued by immersive theatre? 2017 has already been a blockbuster year for London & West End theatre. So what else is in store? When can you go? And how can you get the best seats?
Here, with our top ticketing tips, are the unmissable shows that the rest of 2017 has to offer.

sienna miller plain edit.pngCAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

When? 13 July – 7 October

Where? The Apollo Theatre. Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London, W1D 7EZ.

Who? Sienna Miller (Layer Cake; American Sniper) and Jack O’Connell (Skins) star in this new production of Tennessee William’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece.

Why? The play is one of Tennessee Williams’ best known works and was his personal favourite. Dubbed a twentieth century masterpiece, and with its star-studded cast, it’s potentially the biggest must-see of the year (after Hamilton, of course).
In the play, a southern family gather at Big Daddy’s cotton plantation to celebrate his birthday; Maggie (Miller) fights to save her marriage to his son Brick (O’Connell) as they tiptoe around family secrets and sexual tensions that threaten their relationship. Sounds intense, right?

How do I book? Book tickets for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof online or in person at the Apollo Theatre. Book in advance to get the best seats and prices (best availability from August).

aaip blogAN AMERICAN IN PARIS

When? Currently open until January 2018

Where? The Dominion Theatre. 268-269 Tottenham Court Rd, Fitzrovia, London W1T 7AQ.

Who? Featuring the Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope and New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild.

Why? The multi-award-winning production is dancing up a storm in the West End after opening to a record-setting 28 five-star reviews in March. American GI Jerry Mulligan is starting his career as a painter in Paris when he meets beautiful young dancer Lise. With songs from George and Ira Gershwin, choreography that truly takes your breath away, and a whopping 28 five-stars, it’s probably worth seeing what all the fuss is about.

How do I book? You can book tickets for An American in Paris online (there is a no booking fee offer on until the 22 July) or rock-up at the venue and queue-up from 10 a.m. on the day of the performance to get some limited-release day tickets for £20.

Top tip: The Dominion has some of the best leg-room in the West End. Even rear stalls seats are good, and because the theatre is wide, you won’t feel far away.

amber riley blogDREAMGIRLS

When? Currently open until February 2018

Where? The Savoy Theatre. Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2R 0ET.

Who? Amber Riley, the American actress best known for her portrayal of Mercedes Jones in Fox comedy-drama series Glee, plays Effie White.

Why? The much-anticipated new production, featuring classics ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘One Night Only’ and ‘Listen’, follows the journey of a trio of young female singers called The Dreams on their stormy journey from their hometown of Chicago up the greasy pole of success and celebrity. You’ll probably have goosebumps by the interval, and you’ll definitely be standing by the end. Dreamgirls is truly an unmissable show.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Dreamgirls online. And for the more spontaneous (or perhaps last-minute) people, you can queue at the venue from 10 a.m. Monday – Friday to get £20 tickets for same-day performances. Also, any returned tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis, so there’s still a chance of bagging some decent seats!
hamilton blog.pngHAMILTON

When? Opening November 2017

Where? The Victoria Palace Theatre. Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 5EA

Why? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is a history lesson in American independence, covering the real events surrounding America’s political foundation as well as Alexander Hamilton’s intriguing love life. In 2016, the show was nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony awards, and won 11, as well as breaking all sorts of records on Broadway – not least for the amount of money it can demand for tickets.

How do I book? As anticipated, demand was extremely high and tickets sold out pretty swiftly after going on sale earlier this year. However, it’s rumoured that more tickets will be released in early autumn. Follow Hamilton’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

ross noble blog.pngYOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

When? 28th September 2017 – 10th February 2018

Where? The Garrick Theatre. Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0HH.

Who? Stand-up comedian Ross Noble, Lesley Joseph (Birds of a Feather), Summer Strallen (The Sound of Music), and Hadley Fraser (Les Misérables) star in this musical version of the classic 1974 film.

Why? Wickedly inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic novel, the revamped, restyled production reunites legendary filmmaker and comedian Mel Brooks and Tony-award winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman with the creative team behind their previous hit, The Producers. Think about it. A comical cult horror film parody featuring the one and only Ross Noble. What is there not to love?

How do I book? You can book tickets for Young Frankenstein online or in person at the venue.

iris theatre blogIRIS THEATRE

When? 21 June – 3 September

Where? St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Bedford St, London WC2E 9ED.

Why? Promenade around the world-famous grounds of St. Paul’s Church with Iris Theatre’s signature-style immersive productions of Hansel and Gretel and Macbeth. Their fresh and vibrant shows are affordable, accessible and cater to all ages in the heart of London. Guaranteed to fright and delight, you’d be a fool to miss this unique experience.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Iris Theatre productions online.

gatsby blog.pngTHE GREAT GATSBY

When? Currently open until 10 September

Where? Gatsby’s Drugstore. 2 Pilgrimage Street, London, United Kingdom, SE1 4AU. 

Why? Described as the theatrical event of the year, this immersive adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgeral’s seminal jazz-age novel is a night you’ll remember! The cocktails are flowing, the music is playing, the party is in full swing, and there’s the chance of more than a little scandal. Slip on your best 1920s dress and your dancing shoes, and step into the heart of the action in one of the greatest stories or the 20th century!

How do I book? You can book tickets for The Great Gatsby online. And if you fancy a late one with a little less theatre and a little more partying, book tickets for The Great Gatsby Lates.

Top tip: Due to high demand, tickets sell fast, so it’s a good idea to book in advance.

hair blog.pngHAIR THE MUSICAL

When? 4 October – 3 December 2017

Where? The Vaults Theatre. Arch 236, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN.

Why? 50 years since its debut, Hair The Musical has become more of a cultural and social phenomenon than a show, and is just as relevant now as it was back then.
Walk through the 60s to explore what it is to be free in this fully-immersive production, featuring psychedelic design and artwork, 60s-themed pop-up restaurants, and stalls brimming with tie-dye masterpieces and flower headdresses.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Hair The Musical online.

 

shit faced blogSHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE

When? Currently open until 16 September

Where? The Leicester Square Theatre. 6 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX.

Why? 2017 sees Shit-faced Shakespeare stagger to London with a brand spanking new take on Much Ado About Nothing. Described as a ‘deeply highbrow fusion of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely shit-faced cast member’, this show is perfect if you’re feeling a little less than equipped to take on a deeply moving, thought-provoking drama. Sit back, relax and giggle away at this ludicrously funny, light-hearted show.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Shit-faced Shakespeare online or in person at the venue. The box office is open 2 hours prior to the first performance.

trump blog.pngTRUMP – THE PANTO!

When? 12 – 30 December

Where? The Leicester Square Theatre. 6 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX.

Why? London’s number one dream-team panto producers are back to present their seasonal sauciness with Trump – the Panto! In a magical land far, far away, political overlords expel a ragtag bunch of fairy tale characters from the mystical woods. The intrepid characters embark on an unthinkable quest over the wall in search of the great Trump. Based on “a true story of alternative facts”, this adult pantomime is guaranteed to be a a night of hilarity (depending on your political stance, of course). You can read more about the show here.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Trump – the Panto! online or in person at the venue. The box office is open 2 hours prior to the first performance.

harry potter blogHARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD PARTS 1& 2

When? Currently booking until 22 July 2018

Where? The Palace Theatre. Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 5AY.

Why? The play recently won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards, including Best New Play and Best Director, making it the most awarded West End production in the history of the Olivier Awards. If that isn’t reason enough to see a play, then I’m not sure what is…

How do I book? We’d strongly advise registering for updates. Each time tickets have been released they have sold out within hours. The next release of advance tickets is in Autumn 2017. You can sign up to the newsletter for here. If you’re a little hesitant to hand over your email address, you can follow the play on Twitter, Facebook and Instgram for updates.

Check out all the exciting shows the West End has to offer and get the very best seats via From The Box Office. Enjoy the rest of 2017 and happy theatre-going!

If you’d like to be the first to know of new shows, reviews, ticket offers and more, sign-up to our newsletter below!

How to choose the Perfect Show for Kids (by Age)

Does the thought of tantrums, tears and ticket prices put you off taking kids to the theatre? Wondering which shows will suit different ages? We’ve put together a handy guide to theatre-going for kids from 0-99, as well as a few top tips to help you get the most out of a family trip to the West End.

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  • Be in control
    Gauge how much your child can handle – some shows can be a bit scary for very young children. Bear in mind that many West End (and regional) shows have a minimum age limit, but don’t be put off – there are plenty of great shows even for the very youngest theatre-goer.
  • Babes in arms
    Occasionally a theatre many adopt a “babes in arms” policy, where a very young child/baby may be able to share your seat. The norm is that everyone needs their own ticket, and only shows specifically aimed at very young children will admit babes in arms – we definitely advise that you check before you book.
  • Getting there
    Plan your journey. It’s a great idea to allow children to help with this, tell them what transport you’ll use, how many stops etc so that it’s all part of the day out.
  • Before the show starts
    With their full attention (I know, as if!) explain that everyone will be sitting still for a long time and that they will need to use the toilet before the show can start…even if they are adamant they don’t need to go!
  • Setting the scene
    Discuss what might happen in the auditorium. Explain that some of the characters may do funny or scary things, and there might be bright lights or music or loud noise but it’s okay because you are with them.
  • Don’t fall foul of merchandising!
    Decide what you can afford before you go. If you have bottomless pockets that’s great, but many theatres will allow you to take in your own sweets/drinks if you’re discrete and you’ll save a small fortune in the process. If you’re going to a panto, the pressure to buy show merchandise can be overwhelming. Be smart and buy your glow-sticks from Amazon!
  • Booster Seats
    These are brilliant if you have very small children. Many theatres will have these but often run out, so get there at least 30 minutes before curtain up and ask the Front of House staff. You may be asked to pay a small fee in some theatres.

thinking

Choosing what to see!
Here are some suggestions of the great shows coming up:

5-year-olds

Ages 3-5
Peppa Pig’s Adventure 
– Ages 3+
Room On The Broom – Ages 3+
Stickman 3+ but all ages welcome
The Snowman – Suitable for all ages
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Ages 5-12
Disney’s Aladdin The Musical – Advise 6+. Be aware that very young children may not admitted
The Wider Earth – Advise 10+ as the scientific terminology may be harder for younger audiences to understand, but the puppetry is still amazing for younger children!
Peter Pan – Ages 5+
Operation Ouch – Ages 5-12
Snow White (The Pantomime) – Ages 5+
Disney’s The Lion King – Advises 6+ but will admit from 3 years old with tickets
The Play The Goes Wrong – Ages 8+
Matilda The Musical – Advise 6+ with some scary moments
School of Rock The Musical – Advise 8+ with under 4s not admitted
Thriller Live! – Advise 5+ but young children may find certain moments frightening
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Ages 13+

(PG) = Parental Guidance advised, show may contain strong language or adult themes

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – Recommend 11+ some adult themes
Dreamgirls (PG)
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – (PG)
Les Miserables (PG)
Mamma Mia! (PG)
Motown The Musical (PG) Some strong language and adult themes
The Mousetrap (PG)
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical – Suitable for all but may contain PG moments
The Woman In Black – Suitable for all ages, although it is very scary!
Wicked (PG)

Rules and regulations
Generally, children under 16 are not permitted to attend the theatre unaccompanied and all children require their own ticket unless specifically stated (eg babes in arms). Most West End Theatres will not admit children under 5 unless specifically stated. Age suitability is only given as a guide.

Young adults
Tell your young friends and family about Mousetrap Theatre – this terrific organisation exists specifically to help young theatregoers enjoy West End shows at a fraction of the price.

Relaxed Performances
These are usually geared to children who may have additional needs or for whom theatre-going may otherwise be daunting. For details, always call or email the venue before you book to find out when and if those performances are available.

Theatre shows as a whole provide a great experience for the whole family, so find a show within your budget and ensure you take your peeps to this wonderful experience – they’ll remember it forever!

Theatreland Recommends: Best Pubs and Restaurants

Updated: 5th Jan 2017

We asked West End box offices, casts & crew to name some of their favourite haunts. From basement bars to restaurants with Michelin stars, some are even close enough for interval drinks!

Listings run alphabetically by Theatre (Adelphi-Wyndhams) so you can find the best pub & restaurant near the theatre you’re visiting. So don’t be surprised if you bump into the actors – or even a bassoonist – over a pre-show G&T or late night Sticky Toffee Pudding! Read more

A Guide’s View of London Theatreland

As a London Blue Badge Tour Guide I’ve been leading a wide variety of tours for the past 20 years but my favourites are the Theatreland Walking Tours.  These tours give me a chance to indulge my passions – London history and theatregoing. I love all types of theatre from Shakespeare to Contemporary and attend a couple of shows a week so that I can keep walkers up to date on the latest theatre scene while revealing the secrets of London’s theatrical history.

Elizabethan London

It all began in 1576 with London’s first purpose built Elizabethan theatre which had the rather uninspired title of “The Theatre”. In those days London was a walled city and theatres, which had bad reputations as magnets for rowdy, unkempt audiences, had to be built outside the City Walls in areas such as Shoreditch and Bankside. It was on the Bankside where the Globe Theatre, home to Shakespeare and his fellow players,  was erected in 1599. Sadly the original Globe burned down in 1613 when a cannon was fired during a performance of “King Henry VIII”, so we have to cross the river to Covent Garden to find London’s oldest existing theatre.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane –  home to West End Theatre since 1663

The Restoration

For 20 years London’s theatres were closed by order of the Puritans but the restoration of King Charles II saw two theatre companies being awarded royal patents. One of these, the King’s Men, built a theatre in Bridges Street, now Catherine Street, in 1663 and this was later renamed the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Today’s impressive 1811 Theatre Royal is the fifth on the site. It was one of the first theatres to allow women on stage and the main female performer was former orange seller Nell Gwyn. Many London theatres claim to be haunted and this is the most haunted of the lot, boasting a “man in grey” who only appears during successful runs and the ghost of clown Joey Grimaldi who has been known to give bad actors a kick in the behind!

Rising Prices

King Charles II’s other Royal Patent went to the Duke’s Men who established the Covent Garden Theatre in Bow Street, later to become the famous Royal Opera House.  Today’s Royal Opera House dates back to 1858 after its predecessors both burned down. After the first theatre was rebuilt in 1809 manager John Philip Kemble increased the prices and the audience rioted for 60 nights! In 1848 the theatre turned to opera and became the Royal Italian Opera House, later dropping the word “Italian” and embracing ballet after the 2nd World War.

The Hollywood A-Listers love affair with the West End
Hollywood A-Lists love affair embraces the West End – from Donmar to Noel Coward and beyond.

The Hollywood A-List

Just a short distance away you will find the Donmar Warehouse. Originally a brewery store, then a banana ripening warehouse, this Victorian building was converted by theatrical producer Donald Albery into a rehearsal studio for the London Festival Ballet which he formed with prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn – hence the  unusual name. The late 1970s saw the building leased by the RSC for small scale productions. When they left it became a venue for touring productions but since a 1992 refurbishment it has been a producing theatre. The Donmar’s reputation is so great that it has attracted star names including Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman whose performance in David Hare’s “The Blue Room” was described by one excited theatre critic as “pure theatrical Viagra”.

Shaftesbury Avenue

A five minute walk from the Donmar takes you to Shaftesbury Avenue where you will find several late Victorian/Edwardian theatres. These were the result of a theatre building boom after rules restricting serious drama to the legitimate “royal” theatres had been lifted.   The jewel in Shaftesbury Avenue’s crown is the Palace Theatre at Cambridge Circus. Built in 1891 as the Royal English Opera House, before long and with a changed name,  it was hosting musicals such as “On Your Toes” and “The Sound of Music”. “Les Miserables” enjoyed a long run at the Palace before moving down the road to the Queen’s and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” now beckons.

London's beautiful Palace Theatre at the very heart of Theatreland
London’s beautiful Palace Theatre at the very heart of Theatreland

Wilde About Oscar

One of our most beautiful theatre exteriors can be found in the Haymarket. This theatre boasts the smartest stage door in town (viewed from Suffolk Street) with a plaque to Oscar Wilde whose “Ideal Husband” and “A Woman of No Importance” played here in the 1890s. The flamboyant actor manager in Wilde’s day was Herbert Beerbohm Tree who went onto manage Her Majesty’s Theatre opposite, a building which changes name whenever we have a change in sex of monarch (for a long time it was His Majesty’s). For the past 30 years of Her Majesty’s life,  “The Phantom of Opera” has been in residence, an apt choice of production as formerly an opera house stood on the site.

Join Us

This ends our whirlwind introduction to the central London Theatre scene. If you’d like to discover more then join me on the Theatreland Walking Tour.

Tours, which finish with a cream tea at a café in the heart of the West End,  take place on 22 May, 3 July, 7 August, 4 September and 9 October at 2pm.

Cost: £18 per person including walking tour and tea with scones, cream and jam and the chance to chat with fellow theatre lovers.

You can book your Theatreland Walking Tour via paypal here and I look forward to meeting you…

Diane Burstein x

Diane Burstein
Tour Guide Diane Burstein

Diane is one of London’s best known tourist guides as a result of six years of radio broadcasts on the subject of “Secret London” on LBC 97.3fm’s Steve Allen Show and current contributions to BBC London’s Saturday Breakfast Show.

TWELVE MUST-HAVES FOR THEATRE FANS THIS XMAS

We sent our elves out to find the best gifts for Theatre Lovers. They came back with twelve perfect pressies – one for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, ranging from the completely luxurious to the truly affordable. One thing they all have in common is that they’re utterly fabulous.

1. A trip to The Big Apple!

Luxury: Fly to New York in style with BA from London City airport
Budget: Check out apps like Skyscanner, Travelbag or Expedia. If you shop around, you can find flights in January from as little as £250 return.
Try to stay as close to Times Square as you can. We’d suggest the Hyatt Times Square if your budget stretches that far!
135 West 45th Street New York, New York, USA, 10036
Tel: +1 646 364 1234

Time out in Times Square
Hyatt Times Square – the captivating core of the Big Apple!

2. Tickets to see Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl

Luxury: Take your pick of the seats for Britain’s favourite Funny Girl but be quick before they all go!
Budget: Slip an IOU inside the original DVD (£6.80 at the time of writing)….with the promise to queue for £15 day seats nearer the time!

3. Membership of the Audience Club

The first rule of The Audience Club….shhh! Don’t talk about it!  You just pay £5.00 to their favourite charity.

The first rule of The Audience Club....
The first rule of The Audience Club? Don’t talk about it!

4. Hamilton The Musical

Luxury: Splash out and see Hamilton The Musical – set to sweep the board at the 2016 Tony Awards. (Flights and hotel not included!)
Budget: If you can’t get to New York, bag the Hamilton soundtrack.

5. A Trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Luxury: The eye-wateringly expensive Waldorf Astoria on Princes Street offers spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle – be sure to ask for a room with a view!
Budget: The University of Edinburgh offers student rooms which are basic but central.
Top tip: Book trains 12 weeks in advance for the very best deals. Everything is at a premium in Edinburgh during the festival – for good reason. It is utterly brilliant.

6. Theatre Tokens

The Society of London Theatre’s Theatre Tokens are the perennially popular Xmas gift whatever your budget. Perfect if you just can’t decide what to see!

7. Kristina från Duvemåla

If you haven’t heard this Abba-meets-Les Mis soundtrack then you really must. The Carnegie Hall concert recording has a string of 5 star reviews. Take a listen and you’ll soon hear why.

8. Café Press

Fabulous gifts for Theatre Lovers of all budgets at the wonderful Cafe Press. Pick pretty much anything from here and you’d even bring a smile to the Phantom’s face….

If it's got a Musical connection, you'll find it at Cafe Press
Seen the show, bought the T-shirt…

9. Dinner at Rules

A must for any theatre lover, Rules Restaurant in the heart of Covent Garden is London’s oldest and has even featured in Downton Abbey. This was where Elaine Stritch learned of the sad demise of Noel Coward. Vouchers allow you to set an amount to fit your budget.

10. Opera glasses

Look like a real theatre luvvie with these gorgeous Opera Glasses – just £24.99 from Dresscircle.

11. Indulge yourself with a weekend in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Visit the birthplace of Shakespeare – it’s a lovely place for a stroll by the river. The mid-priced Premier Inn offers prices from just £35.00
If you’re more of a city-dweller, why not enjoy a backstage tour of Shakespeare’s Globe in the heart of London? Adults £15.00 – concessions available.

Brush up your Shakespeare this Christmas!
Brush up your Shakespeare this Christmas!

12. Lego – yes really!

This might be one for the kids, but just look at what artist JanetVanD came up with – a perfect replica of Her Majesty’s Theatre! If that’s a bit ambitious, try starting with the lovely Palace Cinema!

The ultimate Lego Theatre!
The ultimate Lego Theatre….just awaiting the Chandelier!

Have a very Theatrical Christmas…and happy shopping. xxx

A round-up of the best Theatreland walking tours!

London is a fascinating and sometimes chaotic city that can only truly be discovered by walking its streets. From mistresses to murderers and gruesome ghosts to warring writers – uncover the secrets of the West End’s Theatres and back alleys this summer with a London Theatre walking tour.

Secret London

Our personal favourite is Read more

West End Watering Holes

London’s Theatreland isn’t short of celebrity hangouts or private members clubs. Along with The Ivy, The Groucho Club and Soho House there is also a plethora of night spots further west in uber-trendy (and uber-expensive) Mayfair, where you might bump into the likes of Prince Harry, Rihanna, or if you’re really unlucky, Girls Aloud.

West End Watering Holes
West End Watering Holes: A far more relaxed affair than hurrying an interval drink!

But why waste your hard earned cash when there are more authentic places to chat theatre over a G&T or toast Oscar Wilde with a Guinness? Places where you will find the producers and actors, the stage hands and orchestra…. Read more

London Theatre Guide – a cat’s eye view of West End theatre

londontheareguide

I’m Winston. The Theatre Cat.

TheatrePaws

Want to bag front row seats on the day for twenty quid? Fancy a gamble on the Book of Mormon Lottery? Missed out on City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse?

Maybe you want to avoid wasting money on a complete turkey, but don’t have time to plough through endless reviews?

Read more

12 best ways to get cheap theatre tickets in London

Great Article by WebCowGirl! 🙂

Life in the Cheap Seats - Webcowgirl's London theatre reviews

After seven years on the ground in London and with over 900 plays / concerts / ballets / operas under my belt, I’ve become an expert on how to get cheap tickets to shows in London. My friends ask me how I do it, especially when I’ve got tickets to something that’s sold out and juicy and they can’t find a thing. Well … I do have a few tips and tricks, and I’m more than willing to share them with everyone else. I rarely pay more than twenty pounds for a show, and apparently some people consider this shocking – how do I do it when tickets to so many shows are going for forty, fifty, even sixty quid? Well …

First tip: it’s the day of the show, you want to get cheap tickets, and what do you do? The TKTS booth in Leicester square is a great…

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