London’s Small and Hidden Theatres

London is the home to hundreds of theatres from large and glitzy famous West End ones like the Palladium and the Palace Theatre (long time home of Priscilla Queen of the Desert) to the very smallest room at the back of a pub.  In between you will find the National Theatre ,a home fine productions both new writing and revivals, as well as the excellent range of ‘off West End’ theatres such as the Old Vic, the Royal Court and the Donmar.

The Donmar Warehouse deserves special mention as it is a wonderful small space with just 250 seats where you can see the big stars of stage and screen – currently Jude Law is in a sell out production. As with many of the small theatres, its entrance is easily missed on the street and if you are lucky you can get hang around these doors and get close to the stars – here’s my favourite photo of me and Dominic West!

What about the ‘hidden theatres’ then? Well there is an amazingly well hidden small theatre in Notting Hill called The Print Room which is down an alleyway, through to a welcoming reception area and is a converted 1950s warehouse.  From these unexpected premises they put on great plays and if you like to meet the cast, they are usually in the bar opposite, the Commander! Their staging is amazing, one production was set inside a disused tennis court and another on a huge mound of soil which actors had to climb across (well the play was called ‘Kingdom of Earth’!

Another very small theatre well worth a visit is the Gate just off Notting Hill Gate. They have a really small room, with about 70 seats, above the Prince Albert pub but manage to pull off the most imaginative use of space and I hardly recognise the room from one production to another.  New writing is on show and it specialises in international work. Their last production, Wittenberg, was fun, challenging, incredibly well staged

Much grander and more famous is The Old Vic which currently has a wonderful artistic director – Kevin Spacey!  He often stars in plays there and most recently was Richard 111 and previously in Speed the Plow with Jeff Goldblum and Inherit the Wind. It is a treat to have him regularly on stage, but the Old Vic was great before him and will be great when he leaves.

So many more theatres worthy of mention but hopefully this has given you as taster for some of London’s less well known off West End delights.

Bye for now,

London is full of surprises!

London is full of surprises even when you think you know it very well! We found a new local theatre hidden away and I had the fun of visiting Kensington Gardens to show a friend a hidden away restaurant and the wonderful art on show in the trees. One other very surprising find was the Mediatheque, a place you can watch films about London for free!


Just around the corner is a row of former shops and something that looked like a run down workshop which we’ve always ignored and then we heard that a new theatre had opened there so we had to go and explore! They were staging A Snake in the Grass by Alan Ayckbourn and had some pretty good names in it so we ventured into the alley way with curious excitement! We entered an amazing room which had the full set for the play in the middle of the audience. This play is centres on a disused tennis court so there in front of us were the remains of a tennis surface, an old net and a run down umpires chair. The play was really good and the cast featuring Susan Wooldridge and Sarah Woodward were excellent. The smallness of the venue added extra atmosphere and we are looking forward to their next production. Added fun came from meeting Susan Wooldridge afterwards as the cast were drinking in the Commander opposite – the theatre doesn’t have its own bar so gives 15% off vouchers for the Commander so everyone decamps there before and after the show.


Photos: the outside and the tennis court set.


What to do if you have a spare hour on London’s South Bank? Why not pop into Mediatheque which is part of the British Film Institute (BFI) and is a hidden treat. You go in, they ask if you’ve been before and how long you want to spend there and then patiently explain how to you it and you sit in a comfy seat with you own flat screen and off you go. The archive is all yours and they have thousands of films and documentaries to chose from. I looked for old film of London and saw; post war workers’ day trips to London from the Midlands and was amazed at how much they managed to pack into one day; turn of the century views of the docks in full swing; and, clips of the bomb damage immediately after the Second World War. I was overwhelmed by the choice and quantity of material and will definitely go back and yes, it’s free!

Hidden art treasures and a restaurant tucked away are my last two treats for this blog. In Kensington Gardens just by the Palace is the Orangery which dates from the 18th century and is the former garden ballroom for the palace. It is a beautiful building, now a cafe serving wonderful snack and cakes with a terrace which is a delight in the summer. We were there on our way to enjoy the Anish Kapoor outdoor pieces, tucked into the ponds and trees of the gardens, before they were due to depart in the next few days. There are 4 pieces in all and a previous blog featured a couple but we explored them all again as they are so good. The 4 are: the reflective World Upside down which reverses the audience on one side; the triangular piece which reminded me of a witch’s hat; a red circle; and, some way away, a silver disk. These disks reflect the sky and you watch the clouds move across their faces and see birds pass through the disk too. We found them mesmerising and they seemed to attract the swans too!


Photos: Anish Kapoor’s 4 pieces; a beautiful swan; and, the Orangery exterior and interior (including cakes!)

Enough secrets from London for now!