Shakespeare and More in London
Rivaled only by New York for the title of “world’s best theater city,” London is an ideal place to see a stage play.
For starters, go to Shakespeare’s Globe, a meticulously designed replica of the venue where the world’s most-produced playwright premiered many of his works. Shakespeare’s Globe sits along the River Thames, near the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge. Traditional construction materials — including a thatch roof — create a space so reminiscent of the 17th century, you’ll exit conversing in iambic pentameter.
To delve deeper into William Shakespeare’s work and life, we recommend a day trip to his hometown. In Stratford-upon-Avon, visit several homes in which Shakespeare and his family members lived, and Holy Trinity Church, where the playwright and his wife are buried. The lovely countryside setting is also ideal for a peaceful stroll or a leisurely excursion in a rented gondola or rowboat. Catch a local performance by the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, as well.
Back in the big city — especially in the West End — theatrical fare ranges from crowd-pleasing comedies to intimate, psychological dramas. Fabled stages include those of Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (London’s oldest theater) and the Old Vic, which has hosted such high-caliber talents as Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Kevin Spacey. Arrive early to appreciate the showplaces’ resplendent interiors, decked out in gold leaf, rich woodwork and shimmering chandeliers. Here’s a tip: If you want to see a sold-out show, ask the box office about “day seats.” Many theaters release a block of tickets on the day of each performance. Often, they’re sold at a discounted price and put you in the front row!
Post-Play at the Pubs
After the final curtain, there’s no better place for a post-play discussion than a public house (yes, that’s “pub” for short). I’m partial to those that have stood the test of time, serving up pints for several centuries. Among the city’s oldest are the Lamb & Flag, the Olde Cheshire Cheese, and the George Inn.
Finally, if you’re also drawn to political theater, why not pop in at Parliament? From public galleries, you can watch the famously combative governing body square off over issues of the day. The debates can be as contentious and arresting as anything Shakespeare concocted.