About London theatres
London is renowned for its theatres which offer a variety of accessible high quality theatre. With over 50 major productions, repertory productions and a number of Fringe shows there is something for everyone in London's Theatres. The theatres are divided into West End, Fringe and Repertory. Sometimes a theatre may fall into more than one these categories. Anyone truly interested in British theatre should visit the theatre museum and if possible go on one or more London theatre backstage tours.
West End theatres
These are the theatres most people have in mind when they think of London theatres. These theatres are mainly listed Victorian and Edwardian buildings with lots of charm and character. The shows that are put on in these theatres are commercial shows where producers have invested large sums and expect to get a good return. These shows tend to run for a long time. The Mousetrap has been running for a record breaking half a century and other like The Phantom of the Opera have been running for years. Because of their commercial nature tickets for these shows tend to be expensive, but you can get them cheap if you follow our Guide to Buying tickets for London Shows.
The West End covers the area around Leicester Square, Piccadilly, and Covent Garden and there are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes where you can eat and drink before or after a show.
The Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company are two great national repertory companies. As well as their revenue from ticket sales, they are funded by The Arts Council. Because of this they can put on plays and shows which would not be considered in commercial theatres. The Royal National Theatre (NT), based on the South Bank, present a diverse repertory of plays from the classics to modern works with the highest quality. The NT complex houses three theatres, The Olivier, The Lyttelton and The dorfman (formerly the Cottesloe Theatre). There is a good choice of shows as many performances are in repertory.
The Royal Shakespeare Company performs Shakespeare's plays in London at the Barbican Centre and theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon as well as touring regional theatres during the summer. If you like Shakespeare then you should try watching a performance at The Globe.
There are a large number of smaller theatres around London based in pubs, warehouses, or purpose-built theatres. These may have an air of exclusivity because they may require membership and forthcoming productions are not given much publicity. Wherever possible we try to include as many of these productions as we can as soon as we receive information.
Tickets for shows in these theatres are cheaper than the West End, but that does not mean that the plays are not as good. In fact many West End productions have transferred from the Fringe to the West End after a successful run at a small theatre.
Diversity is the key to London theatres' success
London offers more choice and variety in its theatres than any other place in the world. The commercial successes of the West End go hand in hand with the work of Repertory theatres and Fringe theatres. These theatres encourage new talent; actors, playwrights, directors, technicians and designers to develop and practice their skills to the highest level in a productive environment.
If you truly want to get the best from London's theatres you should sample the work of Repertory and Fringe theatres as well as the West End theatres. You will be impressed by the choice and quality.
You can also read history and details of some Major London Theatres.