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London West End Theatre is Back

Published on June 24, 2021 by Rebecca Hinshelwood

There’s a little bit more queueing, a little bit more planning, and a little bit more space, but theatre lovers rejoice! Finally, London Theatre land has opened its doors once more with a number of shows in socially distanced auditoriums. If you’ve missed your cultural hit and are longing to visit the capital, what do you need to know? While new procedures may make some feel daunted, it’s all about managing expectations and being clued up on the experience. We’ll look at how the process operates, which shows are open and what the experience actually feels like. 

Entering the Venue

Firstly, your tickets will be on your smartphone. There are fewer touchpoints this way, and actually this method is a great development as it means one can’t lose or forget tickets! On the tickets, you’ll be issued with an arrival time to prevent people needing to step over each other to get to seats. In recent years, certainly for those more high profile London theatre shows like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, queuing to enter has become expected. Now, standard bag checks are accompanied by temperature checks and NHS app scanning. Even if you don’t have the NHS app (and I didn’t), it takes less than a minute for the usher to jot down your telephone number and you’re on your way.  

During the Show

At the Lyric, run by NIMAX, there are about 7 different entrance doors to disperse audience members on entering. It’s a good system of arrival that is mirrored in most venues where possible. You actually come into contact with very few other people on the way to your seats. There is a vacant seat between each group of people. There were no vacant rows, which did not feel problematic, indeed it helped to maintain a little of the audience atmosphere that contributes to the ambiance. Ushers held boards to remind audience members to keep masks on, but they didn’t feel oppressive in their approach. 

Drinks and Merchandise

This is where planning comes in. Make use of the venue’s website to advance order drinks, programmes and other merchandise online before you go to the venue. NIMAX and other venue managers have developed apps to make it easier, but you can just as well use your web browser. This will make your experience infinitely smoother, with collection points and no queuing! 

After the Show 

This part of the West End experience is very similar to pre-COVID times. You file out through a side exit to be deposited back on the streets of London Theatre land to continue your evening. The city is feeling ever more vibrant, so you can enjoy dinner, drinks or just a stroll through town. 

What’s On?

So which shows can you actually see? There are still some restrictions that prevent some shows opening, be it cast size or audience size. Hamilton, for example is scheduled to reopen in August since it needs to sell the whole house to make it financially viable and the cast is huge. However, there is still a whole lot of joy to be had in the city. Here’s our pick of the best entertainment open right now: 

  • SIX The Musical at The Lyric Theatre
  • The Mousetrap at The St Martin’s Theatre
  • Shakespeare’s Globe is running a programme including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet
  • Amelie at The Criterion
  • Les Miserables: The Staged Concert at The Sondheim Theatre
  • The Play that Goes Wrong at The Duchess Theatre
  • National Theatre
    • The Dorfman is playing After Life by Jack Thorne
    • The Olivier is playing Under Milk Wood
  • Regents Park Open Air Theatre is playing Romeo & Juliet with a further programme for July and August.
  • Heathers The Musical at The Haymarket Theatre 
  • Hairspray at The Coliseum

With full restrictions set to end on 19th July, more and more shows will return to the stage throughout the Summer. London is resilient, and entertainment is its thing so it’s wonderful to see it all come flooding back! 

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