We are well into the new year and a whole host of new and refurbished venues have sprung up across London's theatrical scene. The Turbine Theatre – as part of the Battersea Power Station redevelopment – is now six months ; the previously named Queen's Theatre has been refurbished and rebranded as the Sondheim Theatre; the multidisciplinary Riverside Studios is currently programming in its studio space and will open the main theatre later this spring, and the now-open Boulevard Theatre in Soho sits on the site of the original building and features a fully revolving auditorium.
So what about all those new theatres planned for the capital and beyond over the next few years? Below we round up some of the most exciting projects in the offing:
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
The West End venue is currently being refurbished ahead of its autumn reopening, when Frozen will run with Samantha Barks in the leading role. 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 space in the heart of Bolton. The versatile 300-400 seater space has long been responsible for some stellar productions (none least the ongoing Shirley Valentine starring Mina Anwar, and long may this continue.
Why is it exciting?: The venue is about to unveil a brand new season, and we're very excited to see what's in store!
The Royal Docks Theatre
Planning permission was recently announced for this new venue, which will be built specifically to house the musical Soldier of Orange, which has been seen by over three million people in Holland.
The 1,150-seater Royal Docks Theatre will now be built adjacent to the Royal Docks in east London, and has planning permission to exist for five years. It's predicted to open as soon as autumn 2020!
Why is it exciting? A key aspect of the new venue is the "360-degree SceneAround staging", with the full seating roster rotating as the musical continues to reveal a 150-foot-wide coastline with sea, sand and rainstorms, student dorms, interrogation cells, a palace and a real DC3 Dakota Airplane.
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 in September this 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.
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.
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, and back into the old London Bridge Station arches as part of the new redevelopment. Fingers cross they make the leap by the end of 2020 as planned!
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.
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. Ovalhouse continues its legacy of over 80 years as a community venue and 55 years as a professional theatre.
Why is it exciting? The new venue will have two performance spaces, seven rehearsal studios and supporting facilities to help give Ovalhouse 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 – it's currently home to Roger Allam and Colin Morgan in A Number. 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.
The Curtain Theatre
When working on a new development in Shoreditch, builders discovered remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre. Alongside apartments, offices and retail outlets, the area, called The Stage, will also be home to a new tourist attraction featuring the preserved remains of the theatre, a purpose-built visitors centre and sunken amphitheatre – presumably where visitors will be able to watch Shakespearean performances, although details are scarce.
Why is it exciting? It's in line to become Hackney's first scheduled ancient monument, so that's something. And anything new when it comes to Shakespeare is pretty darn exciting.
Sadler's Wells at the Olympic Park
In 2013, Islington Dance mecca Sadler's Wells announced their search for a new 500-seat venue to stage contemporary dance pieces more suited to a smaller venue than its main theatre. From plans released at the end of last year, it looks like they have settled on a new development, named Olympicopolis, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. If it goes ahead, its new neighbours will include the V&A and London College of Fashion.
Why is it exciting? A juggernaut of dance like Sadler's Wells investing in a new venue specifically for smaller-scale contemporary dance will inevitably mean better opportunities for upcoming dance professionals.
OK, this is not in London, but it's very exciting. 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…