When you think of the West End, you probably think of Shaftesbury Avenue and those big name theatres in that region. They’re beautiful theatres with all their history and grandeur, the bright lights and beautiful displays but what about those smaller theatres that don’t have those same big budgets, the bright lights or the great locations? Do we forget about them? The answer, if it wasn’t already obvious, is no.
Some theatres, despite not being one of the “greats” (you know what I’m talking about. Gielgud, Palace, Lyric and the rest of the gang), have great reputations all the same. The Vic’s for example, whilst The Old Vic probably has a better reputation, what with Kevin Spacey being its artistic director and all that jazz, but just down the road (literally a minute away) is The Young Vic. The younger of the Vic’s is host to many new productions and sees its fair share of the big names too. Not as flashy as some but still definitely a place to hit up if you want a great theatre experience.
A personal favourite of mine is Southwark Playhouse, tucked away somewhere between Elephant and Castle and Borough High Street. It’s small and so are its productions but that doesn’t take away from the fantastic plays that are showcased there. There’s nothing quite like a small theatre to get the real feel of London theatre experience and there are so many small theatres around.
You may be thinking that you’d rather stick to the main path, where the big musicals are and where the stars go but you can find stardust all over London’s theatres. Besides with these smaller theatres and shorter runs, there is more breathing room, more space for creativity. That freedom to try has given producers that chance to spread their wings and try new things.
For example, in June I went to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at Southwark Playhouse no less, and it broke the fourth wall and all the usual structures you find in a play, especially of something of the classical nature. But with Shakespeare and the other greats, these plays have been done a million times before, and yet this production was so fabulously different. For one thing, there was a cast of about 7 and a good amount of audience participation which I was sceptical about at first but then it brought the classic comedy to alive, giving it a whole new lease of life and making me laugh ten times as hard for it.
So my message to you is to not be scared to try something new. Go off the unpaved path and discover just what London theatre has to offer. Take a chance on new actors and producers. Try out those smaller theatres. See what you may have been missing out on and thank me later.
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