London Takes Centre Stage

By London Expert: Gavin, United Kingdom, July 2011

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With the long summer evenings, London is a great place to enjoy its world famous theatre outdoors.

The atmospheric Regent’s Park Theatre presents acclaimed productions to a delighted audience sitting in an amphitheatre surrounded by trees as the sun slowly sinks. The woodland setting is magical for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but also works well for this year’s unsettling Lord of the Flies. If you are looking for something lighter whilst you sip your Pimms, then how about Gershwin’s Crazy for You?

Over the river on Bankside is the reconstructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. There is nothing quite like seeing the Bard performed in such an authentic setting. In Shakespeare’s day the plays took place in the afternoon as there was no artificial light. Although today the performances are in the evenings too, the lights are kept on meaning the actors can see the audience and, with the thrust stage, walk right amongst those standing. There is great interaction with the audience. 

If you are standing you will get wet if it rains, as it did in one memorable performance of The Tempest, right on cue! Hire a cushion for £1 if you have a seat on the long wooden benches. 

I like to show visitors where the original Globe Theatre was situated – now covered by housing! 

For inside Shakespeare the hot ticket this season is Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic. Was Richard III the evil hunchback king Shakespeare makes out? Come on my Tower of London tour and hear the alternative theories!

For opera fans in London, head for the delightful Holland Park and its summer open air opera festival. This time you do have a giant, protective “marquee” roof so you are protected but still have the fresh air. A stroll in the beautiful park before the performance is a delightful way to start your evening.

There are various open air productions dotted around London including, rather appropriately, in the grounds of the “Actor’s Church”, St Paul’s Covent Garden. 

Of course there are all the wonderful productions inside too, including the memorable War Horse, which won at the Tony awards recently, Kristin Scott Thomas in Pinter’s Betrayal and a very imaginative production of the children’s classic The Railway Children, staged in a station with a real steam train as star!   

London’s West End contains the highest concentration of performance venues in the world, so there is bound to be something for every taste.

You can find out more about the history of theatre in London and how it has influenced our language, everyday expressions and theatre design on my Theatrical London walking tour.

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