Celebrating London theatres: the ‘S’s

Welcome to today’s celebration of London’s theatre spaces. We have now reached venues beginning with “S”.

Sadler’s Wells

Located in Clerkenwell, Sadler’s Wells dates back to 1683 and is the sixth theatre on the current site. With two performance spaces (a 1,500 seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio), Sadler’s Wells is one of the world’s leading dance venues. Its sister venue is the Peacock on Kingsway.

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Part of the Savoy Hotel complex on the Strand, this West End theatre was opened in 1881 and is Grade II* listed. For many years home to the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, it had to be completely rebuilt in 1993 following a fire. In recent years it has become known for a succession of musical presentations, including Gypsy and 9 to 5. It is owned by ATG.

The Scoop

Situated next to City Hall, this performance space was opened in 2002 and is an outdoor ampitheatre seating up to 800 people. During the summer it presents films, musical performances and theatre productions.

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A Grade II listed West End theatre dating back to 1911, this venue was opened as the New Prince’s and was the final theatre to be built on Shaftesbury Avenue.

During the 1960s under the ownership of EMI, the Shaftesbury presented a number of long-running musicals, culminating in a five year run of Hair until 1973.

The theatre is now owned by the Theatre of Comedy Company, although quickly moved away from a remit of comic plays and farces back to musicals in the 1990s. It is currently the home of new musical & Juliet.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Opened in 1997 after a campaign led by director Sam Wanamaker, Shakespeare’s Glohe is a reconstruction of the Elizabethan Globe Theatre, utilised by the Bard to present his plays.

The complex now comprises the outdoor theatre and an indoor space named Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (lit entirely by candlelight, and opened in 2014). The current artistic director is Michelle Terry.

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Based in Euston, the Shaw Theatre was opened in 1971 as the Library Theatre (situated within the St Pancras Library). Refurbished in 1998, it is now part of the Pullman London St Pancras hotel, and was renamed in honour of playwright George Bernard Shaw.

The Shaw is now primarily a receiving house presenting drama from funded regional and independent theatre companies, plus one-off concerts.

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Shoreditch Town Hall

A short walk from Shoreditch High Street station, the Town Hall has hosted performances since 1866, first as a music hall and then as a boxing venue until 1975.

After a period of neglect, from 2012 it became an arts, events and community venue with eight performance spaces presenting theatre, music, dance, comedy, and talks.

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Comprising three performance spaces, the Soho Theatre on Dean Street programmes a mox of comedy, cabaret and theatre. It opened in 2000 although thr Soho Theatre Company has a much longer history, dating back to 1969.

The creative director is David Luff, with Steve Lock as Head of Comedy. Plans are in place to open an additional venue in the former Granada Cinema in Walthamstow.

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Opened as the Queen’s Theatre in 1907, this West End venue has been the home of hit musical Les Miserables since 2004. Grade II listed, the theatre underwent major restoration in 2019 and was renamed in honour of composer Stephen Sondheim. The theatre is owned by Delfont Mackintosh.

South London

Based in West Norwood in a Grade II listed former fire station, the South London is a community theatre and opened in 1967. Seating up to 100, its theatre space stages productions across genres. The venue benefited from a National Lottery grant in 2014 to fund its refurbishment.

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Southwark Playhouse

Located on Newington Causeway near Elephant and Castle and Borough stations, the Southwark Playhouse has two theatres (Large and Little).

Opened in 1993, the Playhouse is currently in its third home and plans to move back to London Bridge in the near future, with a satellite venue in Elephant and Castle. Follow the hashtag #FuturePlayhouse on social media for updates on this project.

The current artistic director of Southwark Playhouse is Chris Smyrnios.

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The Space

Opened in Millwall in 1997, The Space is located in a former Presbyterian church and presents dance, drama and live music. A community theatre supporting new and emerging artists, The Space is managed by the St Paul’s Arts Trust and its current artistic director is Adam Hemming.

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The Spread Eagle

Based above the pub of the same name in Croydon, the Spread Eagle is a 50-seat studio theatre and a sister venue to the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham. It opened in 2013 and champions “big plays for small spaces”.

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St Martin’s

The West End home of The Mousetrap since 1974, St Martin’s Theatre in West Street first opened in 1916 under the operation of profucer Charles B Cochran. Grade II listed, it is owned by Lord Willoughby de Broke and Stephen Waley-Cohen.

Stratford Circus

Located in the same square as the Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Stratford Circus is a contemporary performing arts venue. It opened in 2001 and has two theatres, seating 300 and 93 respectively, plus a dance studio. Stratford Circus is owned by the Stratford Arts Trust and the interim CEO is Lucy Atkinson.

Shortly before the coronavirus health emergency closed theatres across the country, it was announced that the venue was under threat of permanent closure, and a petition was set up. Follow the hashtag #OurStratfordCircus on social media to support and keep up to date with the campaign.

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Surbiton Cornerhouse

An arts centre serving Tolworth, Surbiton and the surrounding areas. It presents poetry, drama, music and visual arts.

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Join me soon to celebrate London theatres beginning with ‘T’.