The UK is bursting with unique and fascinating cities whose culture and heritage provide a wealth of theatrical delights. Whether you’re mad about musicals, besotted with ballet, or just a fan of the theatre in general, we take a look at some of the best UK city break destinations for fans of the performing arts.
Home to some of the biggest and best commercial theatres in the country, London is the obvious choice for fans of the stage. Theatreland comprises over forty venues between The Strand and Kingsway, plus there are plenty more prestigious playhouses beyond these boundaries, including The Old Vic and The Barbican. Most West End theatres boast perfectly-preserved Victorian facades and intricately-detailed interiors. Popular long-running shows include Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.
Make your way to the birthplace of the bard for a truly Shakespearean experience. You can explore the various dwellings of the playwright and his family, many of which provide an intriguing insight into Tudor life. The Royal Shakespeare Company has two prestigious theatres here, both of which offer tours, or you can enjoy a pre-theatre meal overlooking the meandering river. 2012 is set to be an exciting year, with a jam-packed programme of plays from the great man’s body of work, all of which have a contemporary twist or a multi-cultural perspective.
A metropolis of Georgian grandeur and medieval alleyways, Edinburgh is ideal for a cultural excursion — even if just for the impressive architecture and spectacular skylines — and the city’s theatres are just as grand as their surroundings. The Festival Theatre is the largest performance venue in Scotland, a gleaming glass-fronted building that’s home to the Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera. Check out the exquisite Edwardian King’s Theatre for touring dramas, or The Traverse Theatre for homegrown contemporary plays. Serious theatre-lovers should not miss the Edinburgh Festival in August, when the city becomes a vibrant hub of drama, comedy and the arts.
A lively and cosmopolitan destination, Glasgow is a nerve centre of cultural activity, with a varied range of venues for all theatrical tastes. From sumptuous Victorian auditoriums like the Theatre Royal to cutting-edge arts venues like the CCA, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to booking a show. History fans must not miss a trip to The King’s Theatre, designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham, and music-lovers should head to the Royal Concert Hall, home to some of the finest musical performances in the world.
The Welsh capital is a lively nucleus of arty happenings, with venues that span the spectrum of arts and culture. The Wales Millennium Centre is at the forefront; a stunning example of modern design and home to the Welsh National Opera and the best of Welsh arts. Beyond the waterfront there’s the majestic New Theatre, or St David’s Hall for classical concerts. The Chapter Arts Centre is a great place to rub shoulders with arty-types; a lively complex of theatres, cafes and bars.
Famed for its stunning architecture, the City of Dreaming Spires offers an eclectic mix of the ancient and the modern. Don’t miss outdoor productions in the summer months at the Creation Theatre, plus there are coffee concerts on Sundays at the Holywell Music Room Chamber Music Hall. For big name shows, check out The New Theatre or The Oxford Playhouse, or head to The Sheldonian Theatre — an architectural gem designed by Christopher Wren, which hosts an exciting programme of orchestral performances.
This vibrant, stylish city offers a wealth of theatrical venues, catering for all tastes. The Birmingham Hippodrome hosts hit musicals and pantomime plus opera and ballet, selling more seats each year than any other British theatre. The Alexandra is an exquisite Edwardian venue hosting a range of drama and concerts, whereas the Birmingham Repertory Theatre stages innovative new plays and world premiere shows. Alternatively, check out The Old Rep, The Crescent, The Drum, The Mixing Bowl Theatre or The Old Joint Stock Theatre, which doubles as a pub.
Alongside lively nightlife and seaside glamour, Brighton offers plenty in the way of theatre and entertainment. The Brighton Theatre Royal is a prestigious Grade II listed building in the heart of the cultural quarter. For side-splitting laughs, try Komedia in the North Lanes, or for something a bit different, head to Voodoo Vaudeville at The Warren — a crazy mix of puppets, burlesque, circus and rock. For live music, Brighton Dome Concert Hall has an excellent programme of shows throughout the year.
Steeped in maritime history and musical heritage, Liverpool is the perfect city break destination. The Everyman and Playhouse Theatres offer a range of plays for all tastes, including the acclaimed ‘Made in Liverpool’ series. The Empire is home to big budget musicals, while The Unity Theatre stages independent dramas. For a spot of comedy, try Rawhide at The Royal Court Theatre, or if you prefer classical music, don’t miss the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.
Renowned for its buzzing culture and nightlife, Bristol is the cultural hub of the South West. The city is home to Arnolfini, one of Europe’s leading contemporary arts centres, offering a programme of ground-breaking and innovative work. The Hippodrome is known for its musicals, ballet and opera, or alternatively there’s the Bristol Old Vic for regional plays with worldwide acclaim. Music lovers must see Bristol’s largest concert venue Colston Hall, regularly hosting performances by big names in the music world.
These great theatre ideas have been provided by Show and Stay, the theatre break specialists.