The Oldest Theatres in Britain FEATURE



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.


The Oldest Theatres in Britain


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.


20
NOV
Shakespeare Schools Festival
Theatre Royal Margate

A show by young people, for young people. Schools from across the country come together to perform exhilarating, family friendly, abridged versions of some of Shakespeares best loved plays. Support these local young people and give your children the perfect introduction to…

Location: Margate

01
DEC
Sleeping Beauty
Theatre Royal Stratford East

Theatre Royal Stratford goes Far East for a brand new festive adventureSleeping Beauty has been in a deep sleep for a hundred years... but wakes to find herself in a strange city with a cruel fairy hot on her heels...Expect our much…

Location: Stratford

07
DEC
Beauty and the Beast Pantomime at Blackpool Grand
Grand Theatre

The Grand is delighted to announce this years cast includes Danny Walters EastEnders, Benidorm, World War and Call The Midwife who will star as The Prince Beast, Hayley Kay as the beautiful Fairy Bon Bon and Nick Wilton as Polly La Plonk…

Location: Blackpool

16
DEC
Christmas Spectacular at Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Special guest, Kimberley Walsh, 15 of noughties pop band Girls Aloud, will be getting theatregoers into the festive spirit as they enjoy a cracker of a show packed full of music, dancing, lights, spectacle and a very special snowfilled finaleDiscover toetapping tunes…

Location: Covent Garden

16
JAN
Equus
Theatre Royal Stratford East

Awardwinning director Ned Bennett brings Peter Shaffers psychological thriller Equus to the stage in a bold new production of the criticallyacclaimed classic.When teenager Alan Strangs pathological fascination leads him to blind six horses, psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart is tasked with uncovering the…

Location: Stratford

16
JAN
The Unreturning
Theatre Royal Stratford East

I want to return to my home. A British Northern coastal town. Three young men are coming home from war. Their stories, set at different times over the last 100 years, are beautifully interwoven in this compelling new play by Anna Jordan…

Location: Stratford

24
APR
Noughts & Crosses
Theatre Royal Stratford East

Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. Between Noughts and Crosses there are racial and social divides. A segregated society teeters on a volatile knife edge.As violence breaks out, Sephy and Callum draw closer, but this is a romance that…

Location: Stratford

01
JUL
Noye's Fludde
Theatre Royal Stratford East

God is angry, and a flood is coming. But Noah is building a boat: wide enough and deep enough not just for his family, but for a cargo of birds and beasts, both great and small. For forty days and forty nights,…

Location: Stratford


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