The glittering lights of London’s West End are exciting to us all. Hearing news that Hollywood stars like Damian Lewis and Kristin Scott Thomas are soon to be starring in plays in the capital, make many of us reach for the credit card and spend an extortionate amount of money on tickets to a show that we may not normally have thought twice about seeing.
A friend of mine recently bought tickets to see Dame Judi Dench in A Winters Tale at the Garrick Theatre and to my surprise declared ‘I don’t even like Shakespeare but I wanted to see her on stage’. I suppose celebrity casting in a good thing if it encourages people to go to the theatre and try something new but why don’t more of us step outside of the West End and give smaller productions a try?
Fringe Theatre’s are all around London and are home to smaller productions of new shows and well loved classics. They may not all have the glitz and glamour of celebrity castings and lavish stage designs but one thing they certainly do have are lower ticket prices.
I recently went to the upmarket Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square to see a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved book The Twits. It was a brilliant production that was on a par with West End standards but ticket prices ranged between £10-£35 (a huge difference to West End prices). This got me thinking, why we don’t make more effort to step outside the comfort of the West End and see what else is around us.
For instance, did you know that Vauxhall is home to the UK’s only LBGT Theatre, staging gay themed plays and musicals? You can see some great pieces of live theatre here for under £20 and learn a thing or two as well! Their next show ‘Fanny and Stella’ is a play about two drag queens in Victorian times who were summoned to court for dressing up as women and went on to win their case overturn the decision that what they were doing was against the law. Interesting stuff!
You don’t even have to venture out of the West End to find fringe venues. The Jermyn Street Theatre is just a stones throw from Piccadilly Circus and in the same neighbourhood as shows like ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Coming up soon there is Jerry’s Girls, a musical review of Jerry Herman shows including songs from Hello Dolly, Mame, Mack and Mabel and La Cage Aux Folles. The cast includes Emma Barton (Honey from Eastenders) and so you can have a celebrity and a show, in the West End for just £22!
So why not try something a little different this month? Look around at smaller productions at places like the Southwark Playhouse (about to stage the musical version of the Stephen King book/film ‘Carrie’) or Alan Ayckbourn’s play ‘Communicating Doors’ at the Menier Chocolate Factory starring ex Elphaba in Wicked the Musical, Rachel Tucker and get tickets for half the price of the West End! You might be pleasantly surprised with what you find!
Remember to always behave at the theatre though, especially at smaller productions. Disturbing others by using mobile phones or talking throughout can lead to you being thrown out of the theatre! Everyone is there to enjoy the show and so turn your phones off and enjoy being immersed into the world of live theatre for a couple of hours!
West End Wilma