London’s theatre scene has been prolific for centuries and, today, students with an interest in the performing arts on educational trips to the city will be astounded at the range of performances on offer. Everything is here – from Shakespeare, to musicals through to cutting edge modern productions. It is absolutely true to say that there is something for everyone.
The West End
The area around Shaftesbury Avenue and Leicester Square has long been associated with the theatre and it is here many of the greatest musicals made their debut. (This will haytheatre.com usually be the first stop on any educational trips to the city focused on the Arts.) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Haymarket in October 1986 and is now in its 28th year. Every night the Opera House, Paris is recreated on stage in London, and every night audiences are astounded by the spectacle.
Another great musical that has been part of London’s theatre scene for many years is Les Misérables. Unlike Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, as it is affectionately known, has been performed at three different theatres in London. It was first performed at The Barbican, in London’s City district, in 1985. Despite mixed reviews, the audiences loved it and it was transferred to the Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, where it played for 18 years before being transferred to the nearby Queens Theatre. It has been breaking records ever since its opening and with the release of the film adaptation in 2012 now has an even bigger fan base. Although Les Mis is performed all over the world, the Queens Theatre is now the only place where the original production is performed. Students who in London on educational trips will truly be dazzled by the bright lights of this area, as theatre after theatre offers up the opportunity to see some truly amazing shows.
The ultimate theatre in which to see Shakespeare’s plays performed is The Globe on London’s South Bank. It is a recreation of the original Globe, which was sited nearby. Performances only take place in The Globe from around March to October, as it is open to the skies and the vagaries of the British weather. It will look very familiar to anyone who has seen the film Shakespeare in Love and it is a theatre experience that will take students back to the time of Shakespeare. Tours are available all year and students on educational trips should definitely put it on the itinerary. Shakespeare’s plays can, of course, be seen at many theatres all over London, and among them are the Barbican and the Old Vic. For those interested in history, the remains of Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre were recently found in the East End of London; this is the theatre that is thought to have been where Romeo and Juliet was first performed.
The National Theatre is also on London’s South Bank and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Ever since its conception, it has provided a platform for playwrights old and new – including the classics such as Shakespeare. However, it is constantly introducing new talent to the public and recent productions have included Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse and Simon Stephen’s adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Many of the world’s greatest actors have performed on the stages of the three theatres that make up the National Theatre and it is a wonderful place to visit.
Any students with an interest in the performing arts are sure to have a memorable time in London.
Angela Bowden works for EST (Equity School Travel), the UK’s largest educational travel company, providing educational trips for secondary schools, primary schools and colleges. Tours with EST can encompass a wide range of learning opportunities in worldwide destinations..