Comparable to seeing a Broadway show in New York City is attending a show in the West End region of London. The boundaries of the Strand to the south, Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, and Kingsway to the east make up what is collectively known as Theatreland. Currently this area includes about forty venues for watching stage performances.
Visitors to London’s West End get to see world class theatre performances, and a chance to participate in a part of history as many theatres are centuries old. The first theatres built in the West End region of London were erected in the 1500s and were used by William Shakespeare. Due to the advanced age of these theatres their histories have been varied and colourful. For instance, the Lyceum theatre was originally built in 1765, was moved to its current site in 1834, and rebuilt in 1904. Other theatres carry the name of theatres that were originally located elsewhere and then either moved to a nearby site or rebuilt after an extended period.
Not only do the theatres themselves stand the test of time, but so do the actual shows. Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the longest running play in the world, and can still be seen today at St. Martin’s Theatre. It has been playing here since 1974 and moved here from the Ambassadors Theatre next door where it ran from 1952–1974. The Lion King has been playing continuously at the Lyceum Theatre since 1999, but is just getting started compared to the twenty five plus years Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera have been at the box office.
There are theatres located outside of the West End region, known as fringe theatre, similar to off Broadway theatres in New York. While the majority of the big theatres located in Theatreland put on productions they receive from others, there are several that produce original works. One of these is Shakespeare’s Globe (opened in 1997) which is a reproduction based on the original Globe Theatre of the 1600s. Visitors to London’s West End have endless theatre experiences awaiting them from seeing classic plays staged in historical theatres to unique performances in modern theatres. Take the time to get the full experience of West End by learning about the history of the theatres as well as enjoying the shows.