Finding Theatreland: A Pocket History

The West End in London and more specifically the area affectionately known as ‘Theatreland’ is the world’s biggest theatre district. Millions of people flock to this area of London every year to see the wide selection of musicals, plays, dramas, concerts and operas. Some are mega international award winning blockbusters while some are diamonds in the rough only a good review away from becoming a smash themselves. Theatre tickets in London are a hot commodity. But how did this become the epicentre of international theatre?

Where is it?

‘Theatreland’ is the rebranded name given to West End theatre district in the heart of the west end of London. While some West End venues like the ‘Old Vic’ fall outside, it’s boundaries are generally considered to be between Oxford Street to the North, The Strand to the South, Kingsway to the East and Regent Street to the West.

When did it all Begin?

Thanks to Queen Elizabeth I’s love of drama and the arts, theatre graduated from streets and court yards of England into new purpose built venues in the late 16th century. The first venue built in ‘Theatreland’ was built on Drury Lane in 1663, which was unfortunately burnt down in 1674. It was such a success though that it was swiftly replaced by more and more venues including what it is now the Royal Opera House. The 19th Century saw theatre dramatically increasing in popularity and as a result a slew of new venues were added to the ‘Theatreland’ and Shaftesbury Avenue (the heart of ‘Theatreland’ was born).

What can you see there Today?

West End theatre is now the biggest commercial theatre district in the world with about 40 venues,  the largest number of tickets sold and the biggest profits (billions not millions of pounds). You can see just about anything too, with everything from Dirty Dancing to Richard III all within a short walk. In fact, such is the popularity of theatre now, that many major film actors have started treading the boards: including Nicole Kidman, Patrick Stewart and Macauley Culkin. This could be due to the low number of good scripts being produced by Hollywood as well as a lack of satisfaction felt by actors thanks to the slow unnatural process of film making which increasingly fails to accommodate an actor’s need for a natural flow. Plus of course, the prestige acquired through a well-received ‘Theatreland’ performance.

What does the Future hold?

Thanks to the SOLT (Society of London Theatre) which has overseen ‘Theatreland’s’ fortunes and development since 1908 and the purchase of many theatres by big commercial organisations such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, the future of ‘Theatreland’ is bigger, brighter and more spectacular than ever. Once again this year thousands of people will be clamouring for cheap London theatre tickets.

Why not book tickets to go and see ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in Theatreland today?