London’s theatre scene is, with New York’s, the highest-renowned in the world. Let me show you the famous sights of London’s theatre district, explain how it has grown and changed over the years and tell you the stories of some of the architects, impresarios, playwrights and actors who have combined to create this unique cultural asset.
Theatre became established in London in the 1600s, when Shakespeare and others produced their plays in theatres across the river in the separate borough of Southwark. It wasn’t until the mid- 1800s that the area we now call ‘Theatreland’ began to become established and I’ll explain why theatre boomed after that time. We’ll start our walk at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which can trace its history back to the 1660s, has recently been restored to its Regency appearance and is said to be one of the world’s most haunted theatres! From there, we’ll proceed to the Royal Opera House, which counts G F Handel among its former musical directors. The tour also includes the Noel Coward theatre, with its Classical facade and Rococo interior, where a young John Gielgud enjoyed great success and St Martin’s Theatre, where Agatha Christies ‘The Mousetrap’ is now a run of over 25,000 performances. We’ll end the tour at the Prince Edward Theatre, where Mamma Mia premiered.
This half-day tour can be customised to suit your particular interest: whether you are interested in a particular playwright, actor or genre of theatre. It can also be easily combined with a visit to any of the major Museums in the West End: perhaps the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery or British Museum. Please see the entries for these tours.