Are These The UK's Most Beautiful Theatres?
Updated: Apr 27, 2022
As theatre fans, we spend a lot of time talking about the different productions that we have seen all over the place, but let’s be honest here, we couldn’t have all of those amazing productions without the equally amazing buildings that house them. How often have you taken your seat in a theatre and just taken a moment to sit back and marvel at your surroundings? Theatres are amongst some of the grandest and most beautiful buildings around, but quite often they get ignored in favour of the shows that are performed within them. So let’s talk about some of the UK’s most stunning theatres, and shine a light on these performance venues.
The Theatre Royal Drury Lane
When the curtain came down on the final performance of 42nd Street in 2019, the iconic Theatre Royal Drury Lane closed its doors in order to undergo a huge £60 million restoration, and when the theatre reopened last year with the premiere of Disney’s Frozen, the transformation was stunning.
With a huge grand entrance, the Rotunda bar in the centre, staircases and artwork that wouldn’t look out of place in a magnificent museum and an auditorium that harks back to the venue’s good old days, if you want a luxurious theatre experience then look no further.
Liverpool Empire Theatre
The current Liverpool Empire theatre was built in 1925 in a neoclassical style with a beautiful auditorium in the Louis XVI style.
Sitting 2,350 audience members, the Liverpool Empire can rival some West End venues when it comes to capacity and welcomes some of the biggest touring productions around.
The Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester
Described as looking like a modern moon lander surrounded by old world grandeur, Manchester’s royal exchange theatre is perhaps one of most unique venues around.
Sitting 700 audience members inside it’s modern auditorium, the Royal Exchange Theatre combines old and new in a beautifully creative manner, welcoming visitors to pass through the old of the listed building and into the new of the auditorium.
The Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre is perhaps one of London’s most famous theatrical landmarks, standing proudly on the south bank of the river Thames. The reconstruction of William Shakespeare’s original playhouse was founded by actor and director Sam Wanamaker and is built roughly 230 metres away from where the original stood. It opened to the public in 1997 and since has staged countless Shakespeare classics to both seated and standing audiences.
Just like the original, The Globe Theatre features a thrust stage in a circular yard surrounded by rakes seating, with only the seated areas and the stage being covered. As with many open-air theatres, the Globe is at the mercy of the English weather, and it is common for productions to be staged in the summer months with the theatre being used for educational purposes in the winter.
Stepping into the Globe is like stepping back in time.
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Named after the man who founded the reconstructed Globe Theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse forms part of the Globe building. It was built using 17th century plans for an indoor theatre and recalls the layout of the original Blackfriar’s Theatre, although it is not an exact replica. The building itself was built at the time of the Globe’s construction and was used for rehearsals and education until enough money was raised to transform the space into a fully operational playhouse.
The theatre features a thrust stage with benches in the pit and two seated galleries. Shutters around the first gallery admit artificial daylight with lighting being provided by beeswax candles when the shutters are closed.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
The open-air theatre in London’s Regent Park is one of the largest theatre’s in London when it comes to capacity, able to sit 1,256, and perhaps one of the most beautiful when it comes to setting. The 18 week season through the summer months is attended on average by 140,000 people each year.
The theatre was first established in 1932, and since then the stage has hosted many a famous face. Throughout the second world war, the open air theatre and the Windmill Theatre were the only two venues to stay open.
The theatre’s current layout was completed in 1974, with the venue famously boasting the longest bar in the West End.
The Minack Theatre
Known as the Theatre under the Stars, the open-air Minack Theatre is built directly into the rocks above Porthcurno beach in Cornwall and when I asked theatre fans which theatre, they thought was the most beautiful in the UK, this one came up a lot.
The theatre was the brainchild of Rowena Cade, who came up with the idea of constructing a purpose-built outdoor theatre after offering her garden at Minack House to a local village group of performers for their production of The Tempest. With the help of her gardener Billy Rawlings, they made a terrace with rough seating in 1932 and over the years the theatre grew into what it is today, just by the hands of Cade, Rawlings and another helper called Charles Angove. The first dressing rooms were added in 1955 with the theatre becoming a charitable trust in 1976.
The season runs from Easter to September, with most productions continuing no matter what the weather is and the beautiful background delights audiences as much as the shows do. It is common for local wildlife such as dolphins to put in an appearance. The theatre has even been honoured with a reconstruction in plastic at Windsor’s famous Legoland.
What is your favourite theatre in the UK?
Images found via Google, not my own