London’s Most Essential Theatres (& others I’ve never been to!)

Mark ShentonInclude in homepage slide?, Thought of the day2 Comments


I’ve written two columns for The Stage this week that contain a countdown of my Top Twenty most essential theatres in London — 20-11 are here and 10-1 are here.

union-theatreThis is, of course, a highly personal and subjective list — I’m not expecting people to agree with my  choices. (I make no apology for including the Union Theatre (entrance cafe menu shown above, where I get an almost daily caffeine fix since it is just around the corner from my office!) right near the very top of my list at number five — it’s one of my favourite theatres in the world!

These are just the theatres I couldn’t do without. I realise, too, that there are inevitably omissions — most egregiously, I failed to include The Finborough (left)finborough, which Neil McPherson has long run as one of the most exciting fringe theatres in London (if also one of its most uncomfortable), and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find a spot, either, for one of its most comfortable, Jermyn Street Theatre.

But there are other theatres that I have to confess I simply don’t visit often enough (or even at all) for me to consider them ‘essential’. The outpouring of love for BAC, for instance, after its recent fire  means that lots of people regard it as essential; it’s just that I personally don’t get there often enough to regard it as such. Ditto Theatre 503 in the new writing stakes.

And I have to confess: I have never (yet) been to the New Diorama, the Yard or Camden People’s Theatre, so although I hear good things about all three, I’m not in a position to judge. Part of me is simply afraid to go to them: my schedule is already rammed enough, without adding more theatres to the mix! And I do sometimes find that, once you’ve made one trip to a theatre, a critic is often bombarded by requests for repeat visits… so it’s simpler not to go at all!

I daren’t even begin to think about regional theatres that I think are ‘essential’ for the same reason. But aren’t we lucky that there’s so much to choose between?

Please let me know your hot tips for venues I should put on my radar.

  • MattMerritt

    Interesting lists Mark, thanks for sharing them. I wonder though, high are your favourite venues purely for the building and amenities? I adore the Wyndhams for instance…

  • From The Box Office

    Yes, thanks Mark we really enjoyed the personal nature of lists and shared them with our followers. For me BAC will always have a really firm place in my heart – it is he first venue where I really began to watch and enjoy radical fringe theatre. The Yard is definitely worth a visit – great programming… not so comfortable though 😉