Theatres might be closed for now but there will be audiences desperate for an artsy fix by the time Covid is banished to the dustbin of history. As such, we've picked out some of the lovely new venues that will be carrying the torch and providing new opportunities and experiences in the future.
Liverpool is set to receive a brand new performance space at the start of 2021, which emphasises a laid back, relaxed environment where punters can come and go, heading over to the bar if they want some refreshments. It truly feels like a remarkably novel initiative.
Why is it exciting? Here's the kicker – all shows are free to watch, with the venue earning money through bar takings and more. A new model for a new era.
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
The West End venue is currently being refurbished ahead of its spring 2021 reopening, when Frozen will run with Samantha Barks and Steph McKeon in the leading roles. The theatre's front of house (currently an 1812 Greek Revival design by Benjamin Wyatt), stage facilities and dressing rooms will be reconstructed and the complex itself will become part of a destination venue known collectively as "The Lane", with new bars and a restaurant that will be open to the public all day.
Why is it exciting? The £60 million restoration project will also reconfigure the auditorium so that it can play in the round as well as the traditional proscenium format.
The swish venue has had a multi-million pound revamp, with a new studio space being added to what is already a beloved theatre in the heart of Bolton. The versatile 300-400 seater space has long been responsible for some stellar productions, and its 2021 season (though sadly postponed in part, looked set to continue this).
Why is it exciting?: The venue has confirmed it will be back in December with shows set to follow from spring next year.
Ovalhouse travels down the road to Brixton
It closed its doors on the site just opposite The Oval at the end of 2019 – after a Demolition Party Season that allowed artists to dismantle parts of the building as part of their creative process – and is now moving down the road to a brand-new, purpose-built theatre in Brixton in 2021, where it will be rechristened Brixton House.
Why is it exciting? The new venue will have two performance spaces, seven rehearsal studios and supporting facilities to help give Brixton House a sustainable future as a major south London programming venue.
Greenwich Festival Theatre on the site of a former Grade II-listed art deco building
The new venue was announced last summer by theatre producers Selladoor Worldwide (Bring It On) and is scheduled to open in spring 2021. The building will occupy the site of the former Borough Halls, a Grade II-listed art deco building, constructed in 1939. It will boast two performances spaces – a 650-seat main stage and a 240-seat studio space – as well as a brasserie bar and rooftop terrace open to the public.
Why is it exciting? The south east London venue will be used by Selladoor Worldwide as a programming and producing venue, with an artistic leadership and development team who will create and launch new work with an eye for touring and transferring to other venues across the globe.
Bridge Theatre co-founders bring second venue to King's Cross
After the success of their current venture just a stone's throw from Tower Bridge, Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr – who together ran the National Theatre for 12 years – are planning a second venue in Facebook's new offices in 2021. The Bridge Theatre opened in 2017 and has played host to such stars as Maggie Smith, Laura Linney, Ben Whishaw and Zoë Wanamaker. The new, as yet unnamed venue, is marked to open in winter 2021, a 600-seat adaptable auditorium situated on Lewis Cubitt Square, adjacent to London's Coal Drops Yard.
Why is it exciting? The new theatre will be designed by the award-winning Haworth Tompkins in collaboration with TAIT. The architects have been behind the creation of some of the country's most iconic arts centres, including Battersea Arts Centre, the Young Vic and the current Bridge Theatre.
The Nimax Theatre on the site of the old Astoria
With plans for this new, in-the-round theatre – on the site of the old Astoria building, which was demolished to make way for the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station – announced, it will be the first of its kind in the West End. The venue is due to open in November 2021, with a 600-seat capacity and development costs of £25 million.
Why is it exciting? It will be the first West End theatre to open since the Gillian Lynne Theatre, known as the New London Theatre when it was launched 50 years ago.
For too long fans of the Bard in the north have had to travel down to Stratford-upon-Avon or London for a dedicated Shakespeare venue. Until now. The Shakespeare North Playhouse, a new theatre and education hub in Knowsley, Merseyside, has been granted planning permission.
Building work has commenced on the £19 million building which will house a 350-seat theatre built to designs drawn by Inigo Jones in 1629. It will be the only replica in the world of Jones' indoor Jacobean Court Theatre.
Why is it exciting? Need you ask? The Jones connection, a beautiful new playhouse for the north west, continued investment in the preservation and promotion of Shakespeare's work…
The King's Head Theatre in Islington Square
It's not moving far – right behind the current pub in fact – but the King's Head Theatre is having a big upgrade! London's oldest pub theatre is planning on celebrating its 50th year by relocating, from its 110-seater black box location in the back room of the King's Head Pub to the multi-million-pound new development in Islington Square.
Why is it exciting? The new venue will boast an 85-seater studio and a 250-seat auditorium, securing the future of a fringe theatre institution for many more years to come.
A new cultural hub with Reading Rep Theatre
Eight years ago, the Reading Rep was founded with a £1,000 gift – it has since created 20 productions from a 60-seat studio space in Reading College. Now, it is expanding into a larger, more permanent home after playing to 100% capacity audiences over the last 12 months. The new theatre, on the site of a former Salvation Army building, will contain a 158-space auditorium and front of house facilities. The company is about to break ground and is aiming to move in to the new space early next year.
Why is it exciting? The new venue will allow the company to produce and present theatre to more children, young people and vulnerable adults in the local community – in 2018, they reached over 15,000 individuals.
Southwark Playhouse returns to London Bridge
25 years after it was first founded and Southwark Playhouse is just a few steps away from a permanent, secure home. First underneath the old London Bridge and now in Newington Causeway, the venue is looking to move to two new permanent spaces – a flagship location in Elephant and Castle (coming in early 2021), and back into the old London Bridge Station arches as part of the new redevelopment.
Why is it exciting? The split will generate three new performance spaces – a 200-seat and a 150-seat space in London Bridge for nurturing new and emerging work, and a 300-seat flexible space dedicated to main house shows in Elephant and Castle.
A massive redevelopment in Woolwich will completely transform the arts presence in the area – featuring a 1200 seated or 1800 standing performance venue, an external courtyard for performances, five studios, which will also be used for performances and rehearsals spaces and a cafe, bar and spaces for community groups as well as to hire for weddings, parties, conferences and events.
Why is it exciting? There are vibrant companies including Punchdrunk set to make their home at the space, which aims to be one of the foremost arts institutions in the capital. It opens next year.