Anthony Rapp, Dogfight, Donmar Warehouse, Frances Ruffelle, Keegan Theatre, London, Menier Chocolate Factory, musical, My Night with Reg, Old Vic, Pasek and Paul, Play, Southwark Playhouse, St. James Theatre, theatre, Urinetown, West End, Without You, Young Vic
Over many years, I’ve learned about the diversity of London theatre. Most theatregoers are aware of the wonderful productions gracing the West End theatre scene. However, there’s an abundance of other theatres making up the Off West End theatre scene that often provide more intimate and immersive productions.
For me, my education of this facet of the London theatre scene began in 2008 when I took a theatre class while studying in London. With my theatre class, I would attend one show a week that could be anywhere from a West End stage, the National Theatre, or a meat locker on the outskirts of London. I never knew a show could be performed in any sort of room prior to this class, and the more cozy, site-specific shows are the ones that have stayed with me most in the years since I took this class.
During my holidays in London since 2008, I have slowly been making my way to some incredible Off West End theatres, including:
- Donmar Warehouse
- Menier Chocolate Factory
- Old Vic
- Southwark Playhouse
- The St. James Theatre
- Young Vic
A few years back, I caught Anthony Rapp’s incredible one-man show, Without You, at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and it was such a touching treat. In March, I saw one of my theatrical idols, Frances Ruffelle, on stage at the Southwark Playhouse, and her voice is just as epic live as I imagined. Earlier this year, I also had the pleasure of seeing Urinetown at the St. James Theatre. It begins previews in a few days on the West End, and I encourage all who can to see it. The dark comedy boasts an amazing cast that will make you want to see it again and again.
A couple weeks ago in London, I returned to the Southwark Playhouse to see Dogfight, a show I had sadly missed in NYC despite my love for all music by Pasek and Paul. I had high expectations and yet was blown away with the cast and creative team. The simple set and small orchestra suited the show’s tough topics. The story was both heartbreaking and heartwarming, featuring a great balance of romance, humor, darkness, and lightheartedness. Knowing the styles of the actors who created the roles in NYC, I could see how they left their touches on the characters they created, but the actors in this production did a good job of making the characters their own. I would have seen it again if I could have, but the show was closing the week I saw it and I was short on time. I sincerely hope there are many more productions of Dogfight that I can see in the future. According to MTI, Keegan Theatre in DC is scheduled to do the show in the spring, so I am crossing my fingers that their renovations will be finished in time!
Additionally, I visited the Donmar Warehouse for the first time recently to see My Night with Reg. The play had a unique take on the time when HIV/AIDS was disrupting the gay community. I was amazed by the talented actors, fitting set, and awesome sound design, but my favorite part of the experience was the theatre itself. It’s a very small space with cushioned benches for seats, and you are never that far away from the action. Moreover, the theatre is conveniently located near Covent Garden. I hope to return soon.
There is so much more to the London theatre scene than just the West End. If you are in London or have the opportunity to visit, please check out one of the many marvelous Off West End theatres.