The Greatest Shows in the World
Theatreland has a tradition of longevity and some of the shows are record holders in their own right. Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, first staged in 1952 is the longest running production in the world; Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Misérables is the longest-running musical ever to have been staged in the West End (it opened in 1985), overtaking Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats which ran for 8,949 performances and two more of the most popular shows, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers and Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera played in Theatreland for 26 and 28 years respectively.
In 2013, almost 15m people bought tickets for hundreds of theatre productions at the most famous theatres in the world, including the Lyceum, Her Majesty’s, Cambridge, the Theatre Royal and the Prince of Wales.
Just like the Theatreland hotels that surround them, many of these London theatres feature neo-classical, Romanesque or Victorian façades and sumptuous, lavish interiors. They were designed to appeal to the wealthy middle classes and the aristocracy who saw theatre (and opera) as highbrow forms of entertainment, and due to the protected status of many of these buildings, alteration and modernisation is often hard to accomplish.
Millions of tourists come to London for the theatre and there are lots of hotels near Theatreland, including The Rathbone Hotel, which are just a short walk or taxi ride away.
History of Theatreland
During the Reformation theatre flourished and the first ‘playhouse’ called simply The Theatre, was built in 1576 in Shoreditch. This was swiftly followed by The Curtain, both of which were used by William Shakespeare’s company.
Interestingly, timber from The Theatre was transported to Southwark and was used in the construction of The Globe Theatre, commonly known as ‘Shakespeare’s Globe’. The reason these playhouses moved out of central London was to be outside the shackles of the City of London Corporation but they were all closed in 1642 as the Puritans, advocates of an austere lifestyle, scaled back the perceived excesses of the regime of Charles I, including theatre, gambling and Christmas!
After this period of austerity (known as the interregnum), theatre flourished. Two companies – King’s Company and Duke’s Company – were licensed to perform and the ‘shows’ were held in converted warehouses and buildings that could accommodate large and growing groups of people.
In the next 150-200 years, theatres were popping up all over London and people came from all over the country to see the pre-eminent actors of the day. They all needed somewhere to stay so alongside the new theatres, inns catered for this new breed of ‘tourists’ and morphed into hotels in Theatreland as the area got more and more popular.
In the two decades after the Second World War, creativity was stifled due to the censorship imposed on almost all forms of theatre performed in the UK. Putting on licensed plays was fine because they purposely stayed within the permitted guidelines set out by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office but as works got more controversial to reflect the attitudes of the time, writers and producers took action.
Theatres were designating themselves ‘private clubs’ in order to show plays such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and while the Lord Chamberlain technically had jurisdiction over these clubs, there was a reluctance to get involved because it became harder to tell the difference between a legitimate ‘private club’ and a theatre masquerading as one.
The censorship was eventually abolished in the Theatres Act 1968.
During the high tourist season, Theatreland hotels get booked up quickly due to their proximity to central London and all it has to offer so it’s wise to book your West End theatre hotel as soon as you know when you’ll be arriving.
The Rathbone: An ideal London Theatre Hotel
The Rathbone is the ideal hotel for the West End theatre district. Not only is the Rathbone’s location ideal, but also because our Reception staff and Concierge will be delighted to help you arrange tickets as well as making sure you know exactly what’s on. They will even provide you with seating plans so you know precisely where you’ll be sitting!
So if you do want to find an ideal hotel for a London theatre break, and you want the very best hotel in Theatreland, look no further!