As theatre continues to be left in complete limbo as to when they can re-open properly, Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon wonders around the West End, taking a look at some of the theatres and the memories they bring up.
Anyone who knows me well can tell just how much I love theatre – I do tend to go on about it quite a bit! But although I understand that not everyone shares this love, the question that I get a lot is people asking me why I love it so much.
I understand that so many theatres are doing their absolute best to reopen the doors for audiences – the Barn Theatre, Southwark Playhouse and Nimax Theatres among them – in these new circumstances, but there are still plenty of those in the industry cut adrift by the government.
Theatre is not simply entertainment, it helps create memories, unite people from all walks of life as well as providing a livelihood for so many. Here’s some of the theatres I walked past and some of my favourite memories having stepped foot in them….
The Shaftesbury Theatre: the first time I stepped into the Shaftesbury Theatre was to see From Here to Eternity. That evening I was privileged enough to meet Sir Tim Rice! As a musical fan, it was a moment I will never forget – even if initially I was a bit shy to go and chat to him – he was a warm and friendly individual who gladly signed my programme. It is still one of my favourite celebrity meetings. I should also say (and I’m not sure how this will go down) that evening Boris Johnson (Mayor of London at the time) was also there watching…make of that what you will!
Fast forward a few years, I came back to the theatre to attend the press night for new musical &Juliet – a vibrant and glorious show which I’m craving to see once more. It was another fabulous experience, filled with great pop songs and nice twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. I can’t wait to experience it again!
Gillian Lynne Theatre (formerly known as the New London Theatre): one of the very first West Experiences that I can remember was visiting the New London Theatre to catch the original production of Cats the Musical. Having gone with my primary school, we were taken on a backstage tour before watching the show. In between the tour and the show I even bought a beanie baby cat to sit with me and enjoy the show! This was when I first fell truly in love with the theatre and the talent it produces.
Again, fast forward a few years and the first preview of School of Rock was another electrifying experience as I listened to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber welcoming the first audience to watch the show. Even from the first preview it seemed like a slick and enjoyable show.
The Fortune Theatre: having now seen The Woman in Black a couple of times on the stage, perhaps my favourite experience was going to see it close to Halloween. Me and a few others were lucky enough to get a backstage tour and learn about some of the ghostly goings on over the years! That was fascinating enough, but then as we took our seats, I looked over and there was Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein) who was in town to celebrate the opening of Young Frankenstein the Musical sitting a couple of seats away enjoying the show. He seemed to be really listening as I chatted to his companion about the show and London theatre – as a huge fan of his films this was definitely a memorable evening!
Royal Opera House: now i’m not going to lie, when it comes this place as a venue it is gorgeous – but it is also very intimidating particularly if you have never been before. But a few years ago, I really wanted to have an incredible experience and get dressed up and see some ballet. I’m so pleased that I did – I may have been up in the gods but to watch so much incredible talent and knowing how much talent backstage putting their time and energy into these productions was dazzling.
This is just a small selection of memories that I have from going to the theatre over the years – and I wouldn’t change them for the world! Let’s all stand together and remember that theatre provides so many positives to the economy, ordinary people and life as a whole.
By Emma Clarendon