Think you know London’s West End? Test your knowledge in our Theatreland quiz!

Do you know the West End’s streets like the back of your hand? You may think so…but less than half of theatregoers can correctly name 8/10 of these theatrical streets! Can you score a perfect ten?

  1. On which Covent Garden street might you encounter a dark and ghostly female opposite one of London’s Oldest Stage Doors?
  2. Which south London street links an Old Victorian with a Young pretender?
  3. Which Ipswich musical shares its name with any number of streets leading to the nation’s capital city?
  4. What street links Monopoly with a Church of Latter Day Saints?
  5. Which street, sharing its name with a Scottish county, regularly hosts performances of the majestic variety?
  6. On which street might you take a stroll and meet an operatic diva and a grand old Duke?
  7. Which theatrical thoroughfare links a magical potter with a bunch of revolting students?
  8. Which street links a Los Angeles boulevard with a Chichester gypsy?
  9. Which London street will soon see a demonic child at one end and a gothic monster at the other?
  10. Where might you bump into a famous beau on the way to one of central London’s tiniest theatres?

 

Want to check your scores? Get out the answers to our quiz here!

Mad about theatre? Check out our other free to play quizzes and stretch your theatre brain.

Most Haunted Theatres in Britain – Part 2

Who is the ghostly figure seen by countless stars at Theatre Royal Haymarket? Why did a night-watchman never want to return to Bristol’s Old Vic? When did the sight of a ghostly child cause a show to stop mid-performance? Join us for the second part of the Most Haunted Theatres in Britain as we reveal why some theatres are not places you’d want to spend a night alone: Read more

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.

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