All the world’s a stage…
…especially the large flat bits in front of all the rows of seats that occupy the 40+ theatres dotted around London’s West End. Those parts are particularly stage-like. It’s probably why they call it Theatreland. But it has oh-so-much more going on that just riveting drama (a full list of which we have in our guide to London Theatre Shows On Now). And we’ve plotted out the perfect route for you to take if you want to take it on by foot.
Get yourself to Piccadilly Circus for the start of the tour and enjoy the show:
Piccadilly Circus Station
Where better to start a tour of the theatre district than at a circus. This part of London’s West End is catnip for tourists, but there’s much more going on than simply the bright lights and the famous statue, including some great shopping, bars, and restaurants.
Exiting the station, Criterion Theatre will be facing you and a stone’s throw away you’ll find The Comedy Store and Prince of Wales Theatre.
Current productions: Unbelievable, a magic show created by (but not starring) Derren Brown.
A walk along Shaftesbury Avenue will make you realise it probably should have been called Shakespeare Avenue, because you’ll find the Lyric, Apollo, Gielgud, The Sondheim, and Palace Theatres all within 300 metres of each other.
Current productions: Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, Les Misérables, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Charing Cross Road
Once renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops, Charing Cross Road is now surrounded by theatres and places to wine and dine. But the bookshops really shouldn’t be overlooked, even if just to browse. There are some ultra-rare gems in there.
From Cambridge Circus, a walk along West Street will take you past the Ambassadors and St Martin’s Theatres. A short walk down Charing Cross Road will bring you to the Garrick and Phoenix Theatres, with the Arts, Wyndham’s, Noël Coward, Duke of York’s and London Coliseum Theatres all located on the many small streets leading off from Charing Cross Road.
Current productions: The Enfield Haunting, The Mousetrap, Hamnet, Stranger Things: The First Shadow, Choir of Man, King Lear, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Backstairs Billy, and regular opera & ballet performances.
A brief walk to Nelson’s Column will bring you onto Strand, or take a shortcut along William IV Street if you’ve seen enough one-armed yodas balancing on ten-metre poles before. On the Strand you’ll discover the Adelphi, Vaudeville, Savoy and Lyceum Theatres, before reaching Aldwych.
Current productions: Back To The Future: The Musical, SIX, Sunset Boulevard, The Lion King.
One-way roads often lack direction; Aldwych does not. This semi-circular road leads you to the Novello Theatre and (surprisingly) the Aldwych Theatre, both of which opened in 1905. A boom year for London theatre it would seem.
Current productions: Mamma Mia! and TINA: The Tina Turner Musical.
Leading from Aldwych is Catherine Street, that will take you to the Duchess, Theatre Royal Drury Lane and Fortune Theatres. From the end of Catherine Street, a swift left then a right will bring you to Bow Street, which is home of the Royal Opera House, and just 230 metres from Covent Garden station – and the end of the tour.
Current productions: The Play That Goes Wrong, Frozen, Operation Mincemeat, regular ballet & opera shows.
Love a West End show? Take a look at London’s best musicals