Theatres have existed in Britain since the 16th century. More than 400 years later, and despite the growth of digital entertainment, theatres are still an essential part of our culture.
During lockdown, we have been thinking about some of the most iconic theatres on our doorsteps and have come up with a list six of the best you need to visit (when we finally can again).
The Hippodrome, London
It is worth visiting the Hippodrome in London purely to soak up the atmosphere of its theatrical history and to marvel at its stunning exterior and interior architecture. The theatre opened in 1900 as a circus variety venue. It famously featured a 10,000-gallon tank that contained sea lions and polar bears. After 1912, the theatre hosted revue-style performances. The great Harry Houdini played here, and the venue also staged the country’s very first performance of Swan Lake. Today, the main building is home to a fabulous casino. If you enjoy playing slots and table games at an online casino like Casumo, you are sure to enjoy playing the same types of games in the flesh. But theatre remains a crucial part of the Hippodrome. At present, the 325-seat award-winning theatre is home to the extremely popular musical Magic Mike.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Since it opened in 2004, the Wales Millennium Centre has become one of Wales’ top attractions. Located in Cardiff, the venue hosts a variety of stage productions, from musicals and theatre comedy to contemporary dance and opera. The 1,900-seat Millennium Centre is undoubtedly one of the greatest theatres to have been built in the UK in modern times. The venue also contains a studio theatre, a dance house, and an orchestral hall. The centre is intrinsically Welsh, as the building was designed with materials like slate, glass, and wood, that have dominated the country’s history and heritage.
Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow
Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre is the UK’s second-oldest operational theatre. The venue opened as a performing arts centre in 1878, and it has been established as a theatre since 1945. The building retains many of its original Victorian features. In particular, the main 500-seat auditorium contains the original proscenium arch stage, which slopes down towards the audience. The venue also includes the round-shaped Circle Studio and the intimate Stalls Studio. Citizen’s Theatre puts on a range of contemporary plays, classic dramas, and works by new Scottish writers.
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Sports fans know Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre as the home of the World Snooker Championships, but since the venue opened in 1971, it has become renowned for its dance and musical productions, as well as classical and modern plays. The layout of the Crucible alone makes it one of the most interesting in the UK. The audience sits on three sides, and each person is only 20 metres, at the very most, from the performers on stage. One of its most popular productions of recent years was the 2010 performance of Ibsen’s classic, An Enemy of the People.
Theatre Royal, Bath
The building of the Theatre Royal in Bath dates from 1720. It opened as a theatre in 1805 with a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III. It went on to host performances by some of the leading actors of the time, including Dorothea Jordan and William Macready. Today, it shows a wide variety of plays, ballets, stand-up comedy performances, and more. The 900-seat venue is one of the most prominent and reputable theatres in Britain. Many shows begin at the Theatre Royal before they move on to London. However, if you visit the Theatre Royal, be warned. It is apparently haunted by a former actress called The Grey Lady.
Globe Theatre, London
If you are a fan of the world’s most famous playwright, you need to visit the Globe in London. As you may know, William Shakespeare’s playing company built the Globe Theatre in 1599. Many of the bard’s famous plays were performed on the stage of the Globe. Although the original building was destroyed in the tragic fire of 1613, a remarkable reconstruction of the three-storey amphitheatre opened in 1997. It consists solely of English oak wood, and the attention to detail is mind-boggling. Today, the world-famous Globe Theatre shows a wide variety of plays and performances, but the bard’s plays continue to be the highlight that draws crowds to this special theatre.
Photo: Helena Miscioscia