Ten facts about London's West End theatres

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By AdFeatures | Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 08:11


Rivalled only by New York's Broadway, London's West End is a global focal point for all manner of top class stage productions.

It seems strange to think that only a few short years ago buying London theatre tickets from Ticket.com was an option that didn't exist but is now the kind of method of purchase we all take for granted. Despite this, there is still much people don’t know about London’s theatres – and here are a few examples:

1. Theatre in London found success when the first permanent public playhouse, called simply 'The Theatre', was built in 1576 by James Burbage in Shoreditch.

2. The first West End theatre was the Theatre Royal in Bridges Street designed by Thomas Killigrew, and stood on the site of the present Christopher Wren designed Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It opened on 7 May 1663 and was destroyed by a fire nine years later.

3. The Savoy Theatre in The Strand was the first theatre to be lit by electric lights which were much cleaner that the previous gas lamps and also had the effect of making the stage area cooler for the performers. The theatre was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte specifically to showcase the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

4. Musicals tend to be more successful than dramas resulting in longer runs.

5. The longest running musical in West End history is currently 'Les Miserables', which continues its run having taking over from previous longest runner 'Cats' by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which closed in 2002 after running for 8,949 performances spanning 21 years.

6. Other notable long runners are 'The Phantom of the Opera' (also by Lloyd Webber) and Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers' which have both also subsequently overtaken Cats.

7. Although the general rule is that musical lasts longer, a West End drama is in fact the longest-running show in the world. The play 'The Mousetrap' by Agatha Christie in now in its 60th year, having originally opened on 25th November 1952 at the Ambassadors Theatre, it now continues its world record breaking run at The St Martin's Theatre.

8. Total attendances for West End productions exceeded the 12 million mark in 2002 and by 2007 had risen to over 13 million, setting a new record. Some of this increase can be explained by the influx of the stars of Hollywood films appearing in various stage productions, and also the easy access to bookings and buying tickets online via websites such as Ticket.com.

9. During the 1950s and 1960s the draconian censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's Office meant that many plays were staged in theatre clubs, whereby membership rules could bend the regulations. It wasn't until 1968 that The Theatres Act finally abolished censorship of stage productions in the United Kingdom.

10. Oscar award winner and Hollywood 'A' list celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in David Auburn's play 'Proof' stage at the Donmar Warehouse in Seven Dials. During her run it was rumoured that she received a weekly wage of just £300 for her appearances.



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