Welcome to the second instalment of Celebrating London Theatres. Today it’s the turn of those venues beginning with “B”.
The Barbican is an arts complex in the City of London which comprises theatres, cinemas, a library, galleries and a concert hall. It is the largest of its kind in Europe.
It opened in 1982, and is the base of the London Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra. Since 2013 the theatre has once again been the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company after a twelve-year hiatus.
The Barons Court Theatre is situated in the basement of the Curtains Up! pub and opened in 1991. It accommodates an audience of 57 in cinema-style seating. The current artistic director is Ron Phillips.
Battersea Arts Centre
The Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), a short walk from Clapham Junction, has a number of performance spaces in the former town hall.
Listed Grade II*, the building opened in 1974 as a community arts centre. The theatre was founded in 1981. The current artistic director is Tarek Iskander.
The centre recovered from a fire in the Great Hall in 2015 after a strong fundraising campaign. In early 2020 BAC became a fully relaxed venue across all performances and spaces.
The Beck Theatre is based in Hayes and was built in 1977. Originally named following a bequest from a local councillor, Alfred Beck, it is currently owned by HQ Theatres (Hetherington Seelig with Qdos Entertainment).
It is a community theatre offering a range of entertainment including concerts, drama, comedy, dance, musicals, opera and children’s shows.
Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Based in Tottenham next to the town hall, the Bernie Grant Arts Centre (BGAC) was opened in 2007 and is named after the late Labour MP who represented the area for thirteen years until his death in 2000.
As well as organising performances, exhibitions and festivals, the BGAC supports a number of creative start-ups through its Enterprise Centre. Its mission is to champion Black artists to tell their own stories.
The Blackheath Halls, owned by Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, opened in 1895 and claims to be “London’s oldest surviving purpose-built cultural venue”. It survived a period of neglect during the 1980s and was eventually restored in 1991.
The Bloomsbury Theatre is owned by University College London and offers professional productions of music, drama, comedy and dance all year round.
Opened in 1968 as the Collegiate Theatre, it has been known under its current name since 1982.
The Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell is a fifty-seat fringe space, opened in 1999. Since 2013 its joint artistic directors have been Niamh de Valera and Jo Sadler-Lovett.
The theatre is especially known for staging little-known works by author Mervyn Peake. Other recent initiatives include the Elefest Dance Festival and Elephantology.
The Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham is named for the star entertainer who was born in the town in 1903. Despite leaving for America at the age of five, Hope helped the theatre in a period of financial crisis in the late 1970s, enabling the then Eltham Little Theatre to be purchased outright in 1982.
The theatre is a member of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain and is a popular local community space.
The Boulevard is one of London’s newest theatres. It opened in Autumn 2019 on the former site of Raymond’s Revuebar in Soho, with their original neon sign preserved on the exterior.
Owned by Paul Raymond’s granddaughter Fawn James, the theatre boasts a revolving auditorium that can be set in seven different configurations and seats 165. The current artistic director is Rachel Edwards.
Brick Lane Music Hall
Called “the home of music hall” and housed in the former St Mark’s Church in Silvertown, the Brick Lane Music Hall opened in 2003, first with traditional music hall shows and, since 2006, produced shows.
The music hall itself has a longer history, having been based in the former Truman’s Brewery in Brick Lane from 1982 before moving to Shoreditch and then St Mark’s. The church itself became redundant in 1974.
Bread & Roses
The Bread & Roses Theatre, launched in 2014, is above the pub of the same name in Clapham Town. Its name comes from a song which has been adopted by women trade unionists across the globe. The pub is owned by the Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council (BWTUC).
The theatre’s current artistic director is Velenzia Spearpoint, who also performs the same role for Get Over It! Productions. The Bread & Roses opened the Clapham Fringe Festival in 2015. Until February 2020 there was a sister space, the Chapel Playhouse, in King’s Cross.
The Bridewell Theatre, just behind Fleet Street is part of the St Bride’s Foundation and was built over the City of London’s first swimming pool dating from the Victorian era. It opened in 1994.
Hosting a variety of productions in the evenings, it also puts on regular lunchtime plays, where the audience are encouraged to eat.
The Bridge Theatre, next to City Hall and Tower Bridge, was founded in October 2017 by Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner, following the latter’s deparrure from the National Theatre. It continues to be operated by the duo as the London Theatre Company.
A commercial producing theatre seating 900 in a flexible space, the Bridge is the “first wholly new theatre of scale to be added to London’s commercial theatre sector in 80 years” (Bridge website).
The Bridge House, based upstairs at the pub of the same name in Penge, was opened in 2014, and is jointly run by Guy Retallack and Rachel Tucker. It describes itself as “South East London’s premier fringe theatre”.
The Broadway is situated in Barking town centre. Originally known as Barking Assembly Hall, it has been an arts venue since 1962, and was modernised in 2004. It is the home of Barking and Dagenham College’s performing arts, music and media make-up courses.
A grade II* listed buiding in Catford, the Broadway was opened as a concert hall in 1932. Previously named the Lewisham Concert Hall, then Lewisham Theatre, it settled on its current name in 2001.
With a strong reputation for comedy and two performance spaces, the Broadway now focuses on festivals, pop-ups and live music. In 2018 it hosted the Catford Fringe Festival.
The Bromley Little is a thriving community theatre in South-East London. It dates from 1938 and is based in a former Victorian bakery. The theatre is run by Bromley Little Theatre Ltd and the Bromley Little Theatre Playgoers Club.
The Brookside Theatre in Romford was established in 2012 and is based within the Romford War Memorial buildings. It is self-funded and run by volunteers, its aim being to ensure the survival of the historic buildings, which date from 1953.
The Bunker was based in a former underground car park near London Bridge. It had already announced closure due to the redevelopment of the area, but continues to require support to continue its work elsewhere. Under the management of artistic director Chris Sonnex, it staged 160 productions during its three and a half year life.
The Bush Theatre has been based since 2011 in a former public library next door to Shepherd’s Bush Market. It currently has two performance spaces.
Originally opened in 1972 as a pub theatre, showcasing work by new writers, it is now owned by the Alternative Theatre Company and its current artistic director is Lynette Linton.
The Bush Hall, just up the road from Shepherd’s Bush Market, was opened as a dance hall in 1904. After various uses including bingo and snooker under the Carlton name, it was reopened as a music hall by its present owners, Charlie Raworth and Emma Hutchinson. It stages a variety of performances including concerts, comedy and cabaret.