The Oldest Theatres in Britain FEATURE
Feature article by BritEvents.
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Generations of actors have trod the boards in some of the finest theatre buildings all over Britain. Luckily, some of the oldest theatres still remain in use to this day, proving just how important theatre is as an expression of our culture, and as a form of entertainment that is available to all. The following 10 theatres are among the oldest in Britain, but they are still in business today. Hopefully, they'll still be around in another 100 years time.
Generations of actors have trod the boards in some of the finest theatre buildings all over Britain.
Luckily, some of the oldest theatres still remain in use to this day, proving just how important theatre is as an expression of our culture, and as a form of entertainment that is available to all.
The following 10 theatres are among the oldest in Britain, but they are still in business today. Hopefully, they'll still be around in another 100 years time...
1. Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
London's oldest theatre is a spectacular building with a lavish auditorium that is admired by visitors from all over the world. Although it is no longer the original building - built on the same site in 1662 - its grand appearance eclipses most other West End theatres. Mainly staging popular musicals, the theatre today is owned by composer and producer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.
2. Bristol Old Vic
The Theatre Royal at the Bristol Old Vic opened in 1766 and is famous for being the oldest continually operating theatre in Britain. With its horseshoe-shaped auditorium and sumptuous red and gold decor, the Georgian building is one of the most beautiful in the world. Audiences still enjoy entertaining and inspiring productions every week. From classical theatre to modern plays, the theatre also works closely with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which has turned out brilliant actors like Jeremy Irons and Daniel Day-Lewis.
3. Grand Theatre, Lancaster
As the third oldest theatre in England, the Lancaster Grand has been in continuous use since 1782. Damaged by fire in 1908, the interior was rebuilt in the same year. Seating 457 people on two levels, it is owned by the Lancaster Footlights who began performing in the 1920s and bought the building in 1950 to save it from being demolished. The theatre is now looking as good as it ever has, and presents a wide variety of professional and amateur shows.
4. Theatre Royal, Margate
Opened in 1787, the Theatre Royal in Margate claims to be the oldest unrestored theatre in the country, and also has the oldest stage.
It has an exciting programme of drama, music, comedy, dance, exhibitions, and talks. With a strong belief in providing artistic inspiration, nurturing talent, and enriching the local community, the theatre is even licensed for marriage ceremonies.
5. Theatre Royal, Bath
This theatre is a celebrated example of Georgian architecture and originally opened in 1805 with a performance of Richard III.
With three auditoria, including a children's theatre, the theatre holds several festivals each year, such as the Bath Shakespeare Festival, and the Bath International Puppet Festival. With enough seats for around 900 people, many plays debut here before their official London opening.
6. The Old Vic, London
Famous in recent times for appointing American actor Kevin Spacey as its new artistic director, the theatre has always been respected internationally. It is synonymous with the greatest British acting talent, from Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, and John Gielgud to Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Albert Finney, and Peter O'Toole.
Established in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, the present company still attracts the best creative talent from the UK and all over the world.
7. Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds
When it was opened in 1819, it was one of the most elegant and advanced theatres of its time. It is now the only working theatre on the National Trust's portfolio of properties.
In 2005 the theatre benefited from major restoration to return it to its original design, and today it still runs a rich programme of drama, comedy, music, dance, and children's work.
8. Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
First opened in 1878, this is one of the oldest theatres in Scotland and has the most complete working Victorian theatre machinery in the UK.
The Citizens Theatre still has the initiative to bring the arts to the local community in new and exciting ways. It is proud to offer affordable ticket pricing, free previews for every show, and free programmes for audience members. It even runs weekend drama classes for children to improve their confidence and inspire creativity.
9. Grand Theatre, Leeds
When it opened in 1878, only those sitting in the best seats were allowed to use the theatre's main entrance. Other people were ushered through side entrances to keep them separate from the upper classes.
Today, with room for around 1500 people, it is host to many touring productions, musicians, and comedians. Many talented performers have appeared here, from Julie Andrews to Laurence Olivier.
10. Lyric Theatre, London
On Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End lies the famous Lyric Theatre. It is currently the oldest theatre on this famous street, having first opened in December 1888.
Unlike many old theatres, it still uses pumped water to operate the iron curtain. With an impressive 967 seats on four levels, it used to stage mainly comic operas. Nowadays it presents comedy, drama, and musicals. Recent award-winning productions include Blood Brothers and Cabaret.
All of these British theatres are part of our cultural and architectural history. As well as supporting the arts in our community today, they have the power to entertain and inspire future generations. Hopefully, with proper financing and continual community support, many of these old theatres will remain in Britain for many years to come.
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