When you think of London, you probably think of the great traditional plays that can be viewed in one of the world’s greatest cities. The West End provides ample opportunity to see the major theatrical productions in the city. But, what about other areas of the city? What if you wanted to see more contemporary, avant-garde work? Well, London has a few secrets in store for you, if you’re willing to look carefully.
First up, Riverside Studios in Hammersmith is a great place to see contemporary dance, theater and opera.
Artists from around the world visit here yearly, making this a truly international venue. The space is unconventional, and yet houses a traditional play as well as a classic stage. Dance is well viewed here, with sightlines unobstructed and clear. Riverside is the former home of the BBC also, so there is some strong history in this space. Be sure to dine at the theater, or well before coming to Hammersmith. There’s not much to eat or do here, other than see amazing theater.
Next, is the classic venue for all dance in London, Sadler’s Wells. Remodeled in 1998, this beautiful old theater has been remade to become the UK home for the world’s finest modern dance companies.
Many touring operations from the US make annual stops here including Merce Cunningham, Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp. The theater is located in Islington, making it very accessible from many parts of London. Also, after the show, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby – a short walk up St. John street will take you into Upper Islington where you can find virtually any cuisine you like.
The most electric venue in London on the contemporary theater scene is the Barbican Centre. Also housing some incredible visual and video art, as well as cutting edge cinema, Barbican has separated itself from the rest of the London scene. A city attracted to tradition, Barbican has made its name in change. Facilitating exciting collaboration, incredible premiers and fostering new and emerging artists, Barbican – like BAM – has made a name for facilitating the growth of multiple art forms. Be sure to arrive early and take in the front curtain. You will be amazed at seeing it as it appears like a steel curtain, curved and nuanced like nothing of its kind. When it raises and vanishes, it reveals one of the finest viewing stages in the world. All works can be seen rather easily. Also, Barbican is very close to the theater district, its restaurants and nightlife.
A week spent in London should include Big Ben, The Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. But, at night, take in these three different and eclectic theater venues and explore the city in a new way. Breaking off the well beaten path, in these three cases, is well worth it.
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