London is rivalled only by New York in the global theatre world, and the nearby district, affectionately called Theatreland, is home to all manner of venues, from the grandest and stateliest to smaller, edgier stages. Also known as the West End, it hosts dozens of shows each day of the week, catering to all tastes: from Shakespearean dramas and musical spectaculars to Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which has been running since 1952.
Encased by Denys Lasdun’s monumental Brutalist concrete frame, the National Theatre is Britain’s largest, with three permanent stages located on the Thames, next to the Southbank Centre. The highly regarded theatre still feels the influence of Laurence Olivier, the company’s first artistic director, whose statue as Hamlet can be found outside the building.
One of the largest performing arts centres in Europe, with three halls, three cinema screens and an art gallery, The Barbican is set in the heart of the City of London. Both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra are in residence, and its programme of music, theatre, art, dance and film is world-renowned.
Dedicated exclusively to dance, the more than three-century-old theatre puts on hundreds of exceptional performances each year. Melding tradition with constant innovation and experimentation, the programme varies widely night by night, ideal for those seeking something unexpected.
A modern reconstruction of the original Elizabethan Globe Theatre, the circular, open-top theatre recreates the experience of Shakespeare’s time not only through its appealing architecture of English oak without steel supports, but also through live, period-instrument music and plays performed without microphones.
Britain’s most vibrant arts complex, Southbank Centre comprises the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery, and serves as the home of four orchestras, including the London Philharmonic. With more than 1,300 performances of various types each year, Southbank also hosts a weekly food market, Britain’s largest poetry library and seasonal festivals.
A 10-minute walk from the hotel in Covent Garden, London’s Royal Opera House is one of the world’s greatest opera stages. It presents hundreds of operas, ballets and concerts each year, as well as more experimental pieces, which are giving the once-traditional opera house a new avant-garde reputation.