Theatregoers are totally spoilt for choice in London with around 40 theatres in the West End alone, most of them concentrated in what is now called ‘Theatreland’.
Theatreland covers a large part of the West End, and some people might argue that it is the West End. Wikipedia defines the area it covers as stretching from Kingsway in the east to Regent St in the west and from Oxford St in the north to The Strand in the south.
Some people think of Leicester Square as the epicentre of Theatreland but in actual fact it’s really the centre of ‘Cinemaland’ where many film premieres take place.
When I think of Theatreland I tend to think of the area around Shaftesbury Avenue which isn’t far from Leicester Square anyway.
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is regarded as the oldest in the West End and although it’s been entertaining audiences since 1663 there have been three other buildings prior to the one that’s currently here which opened in 1812.
The majority of the other theatres were built between the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the Twentieth, many of them being household names such as the London Palladium which is owned and run by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Really Useful Theatres Group’. In 2018 Bruce Forsyth’s ashes were laid to rest under the stage.
Current performances in Theatreland (Oct 2019) include The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales, Les Misérables at The Queen’s, and of course The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre where it has been running since 1974.
The Mousetrap premiered at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham on 6th Oct 1952 and did a tour of the country before opening in the West End on 25th November of the same year. The venue was The Ambassadors Theatre where the play ran until Saturday 23rd March 1974. Two days later it was up and running again in the larger theatre next door – St Martin’s – where it’s been going ever since, making it the longest running show of any kind anywhere in the world with over 27,000 performances to its credit so far.
Buying tickets for a show can be a bit of a minefield and there are any number of options to consider. Buying them in advance online is obviously a good safe bet, but if you’re going on spec try the TKTS booth in Leicester Square which offers discounted tickets up to half price on the day of the show. There are plenty of other outlets offering cut price tickets but unless they’re a member of STAR (Society of Ticket Agencies and Retailers) I would advise you to go elsewhere.
Prices for shows vary of course, but they can be expensive. Even so it doesn’t seem to put people off, judging by the numbers that flock here each week.
Over 15 million people find something to entice them out of the comfort of their armchairs each year to see one of the productions on offer, and with so many venues around there’s bound to be something on that you like, particularly if you like musicals. It’s just a shame that I don’t.
Updated Oct 2019