I joined a Theatreland walking tour which The Society of London Theatre organises monthly and Diane Burstein, a registered London Blue Badge Guide, lead these tours.
We all met at The Old Vic
in Waterloo. It was known as the Royal Coroborough Theatre. Drama is
the main forte offered at the theatre and Shakespeare ‘s Richard III is
currently playing there. The play starring Kevin Spacey and directed by
Sam Mendes. The Theatre was renamed after Queen Victoria and the
theatre was shaped by Lilian Bayliss’s influence throughout the 20th
We then visited National Theatre Studio which was
originally erected for the The Old Vic. Across the road we saw The
Young Vic Theatre the site was originally a terrace of shops until the
bombing of World War II where a considerable number of people were
killed. The theatre was found in 1940 by George Peline and the theatre
became separate from The Old Vic. The old entrance of the original shop
is retained and was originally a butcher’s shop. Plays that are shown
there are known as Off West End and attract well established actors.
from the Young Vic Theatre is The Bookshop Theatre where a number of
theatrical events are held and these are considered as Fringe and there
are a number of venues that are unique that hold Fringe events.
a local residential area which has yellow brick houses and were
originally built for the workers in the early 20th Century. Some of the
streets such as Windmill Walk and Raipell Street survived during World
War II and the houses on those street are around 1m GBP!
reached Southbank home to the National Theatre’s Olivier, Cottesloe
and Lyttleton theatres. Southbank was an area regenerated after World
War II. In 1963 a theatre was commissioned at Southbank and a national
theatre company was eventually planned and formed in 1976. Near the
National Theatre you can see Statue of Laurence Olivier whose involvement
was recognised in creating The National Theatre company. The complex
is a listed building and a lot of event other than the company’s
productions are hosted there.
Somerset House via Waterloo
Bridge. This building was built in 1777 for the Navy. The site once
belonged to Earl of Somerset (Palace) who had a direct involvement with
theatre during the 17th Century and engaged playwriters such as Inigo
Jones and Ben Johnson. The Palace was eventually demolished and
Somerset House was built. Somerset is nowadays a ‘palace’ for the arts
and houses Courtauld Art Gallery and the art library. In the summer
cinema, stage and music events are hosted and in winter there is a
We wandered left down The Strand to Savoy
Theatre. The theatre was built in 1881 and was the first theatre to be
illuminated by electricity. Richard Carter demonstrated a light bulb to
convince audiences that electricity is safe. The theatre hosted light
operas for Gilbert and Sullivan and the adjacent hotel was built in 1889
from the theatre’s profits.
Lyceum Theatre was owned by
Henry Irvin, an acting Manager in the 19th Century and ceased running as
a theatre in 1936 In the 1980s it was a dance venue and in 1996 Apollo
Leisure purchased the theatre and refurbished it. It revived a couple
of musicals before Lion King opened in 1999 and still is
running. Around the block we saw the site of the former Gaiety Theatre
which reigned from 1903 to 1936. It was known for its Gaiety Girls and
Stage Door Jollities.
Novello Theatre , formerly called
The Strand, was known as the Waldorf Theatre in 1905. Ivan Novello,
formerly Davies, lived in a flat above the theatre. In 1929 the theatre
hosted the shortest running production of one night! The guide
discussed that censorship has been abolished in 1969 and the following
year Oh, Calcutta came to the theatre. At present the theatre is hosting Betty Blue Eyes.
we stopped at Theatre Royal Drury Lane where King Charles II’s Coat of
Arms is displayed circa 1663. King Charles II loved his theatre and
liked the idea of spectacular. A pub across from the theatre is called Nell of Drury Pub and
Nell Gwyn was the King’s mistress. At the front of the theatre there
is a Fountain named after Augustus Harrison where in 1890 he put
hydraulic system into the running of the theatre but it is not used
There is where the tour concluded and I
thoroughly enjoyed knowing more about London’s Theatreland – Simply the
best in the world!