Splendid Theaters of London
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Splendid Theaters of London

London offers an astonishing variety of theatrical entertainment--this is one of the world's greatest stages, and at its finest, standards of quality are exceptionally high. Although the British people are noted for their reserve, they are rather passionate about theater, and the theaters of London echo every nuance of this passion.

Royal National Theatre

The Royal National Theatre is well worth a visit, even if you don't want to watch a play.  Based in the South Bank Centre, this Sir Denys Lasdun's building was opened in 1976 after more than 200 years of deliberation over whether a national theater should be established and where its location should be.  The company was founded in 1936 by Laurence Olivier, after whom the largest of the three theaters available was named.  The Olivier, the proscenium-arched Lyttleton and the small, flexible Cottesloe offer a range of size and style that make it possible to produce every kind of theater works.

Shakespeare's Globe

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Built on the banks of the Thames, Shakespeare's Globe is a brilliant replica of the Elizabethan theater where the audience can recreate the experience of the way Shakespeare's plays were first performed.  The wooden, circular structure is only half-covered, leaving some of the audience exposed to the elements.  The shows operate only in summer, and watching a play here can be a lively experience with the "groundlings" stationed close to the stage encouraged to interact with the actors.  Underneath the theater is the Shakespeare's Globe Exhibition, which brings aspects of his work to life.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

The original theater on the site was constructed in 1663.  The actress Nell Gwynne, who became Charles II's mistress, acted here.  Since then, three of the theaters erected here burned down, including one designed by Christopher Wren.  The present structure, by Benjamin Wyatt, was completed in 1812 and possesses one of the city's biggest auditoriums.  In the 1800s, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was well-known for pantomimes--today it stages extravagant musicals.  Despite its name, its entrance is on Catherine Street.

London Coliseum

(Auditorium of the London Coliseum) Image source

The London Coliseum is London's largest theater and undeniably, one of its most elaborate.  This stately building crowned with a large globe was designed by Frank Matcham in 1904. It was equipped with London's first revolving stage; it was also the first theater in Europe to install elevators.  The London Coliseum is well worth visiting, even if only for the Edwardian interior with its gilt cherubs and purple curtains.  The original glass roof was restored in 2003, offering impressive views over Trafalgar Square.

Palace Theatre

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The Palace Theatre has hosted many spectacularly successful musicals including Les Misérables.  Moreover, this theater, which dominated the west side of Cambridge Circus, is even more spectacular with its dazzling terracotta exterior and opulent furnishings.  Built as an opera house in 1891, it was made into a music hall the following year.  The acclaimed ballerina Pavlova made her London debut here in 1910.  Currently, the theater is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose own musicals are staged all over London.

Adelphi Theatre

Built in 1806, the Adelphi Theatre was opened by John Scott, a rich merchant, who was helping to launch his daughter's career on stage.  In 1930, the structure was renovated in Art Deco style.  One can notice the highly distinctive lettering on the façade, and the well-maintained hall and auditorium with their stylized motifs.

Royal Opera House

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Most of the world's greatest singers and dancers have appeared on the stage of the Royal Opera House, which is also home to the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet Companies. The first theater was built in 1732, but the site had proved susceptible to fire, which razed the building in 1808 and again in 1856.  The current opera house was designed by E.M. Barry in 1858.  John Flaxman's portico frieze, portraying tragedy and comedy, outlasted the earlier building of 1809.  The building reopened in time for the new millennium following two years of extensive renovation, complete with a second auditorium and new rehearsal rooms for its Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies.  Once a month tourists can watch the Royal Ballet attending its daily class.

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Comments (3)

Eddie, I love architecture and I loved this article...peace Jaz

Nice article with essential tips. Thank you Eddie. Voted. Always seeking your support.

very good thank you