Theatre Shows in East London

The West End of London is probably the best known and most well-loved theatrical district anywhere in the world, let alone London. However, the capital city of the UK boasts many more theatrical hideaways and lesser known venues which are not so well publicised. These are often nothing less than hidden gems and you can find some top quality productions in them. London's theatrical scene is second to none in Europe and East London should not be overlooked as a place to go out and enjoy an evening at the theatre. Why restrict yourself to the West End, when there is so much more on elsewhere?

The City

Considered to be outside of the West End, where most of London's famous theatres are located, the Barbican Centre in EC2 has two theatres within it as well as art galleries and other creative spaces and restaurants. Used for serious theatrical productions as well as dance, film and music, the Barbican Centre is Europe's biggest multi-arts and conference venue. The centre has two state-of-the-art theatres. One is simply called the Barbican Theatre and the other is the Silk Street Theatre. The Barbican is the main theatre, which is a raked auditorium that can hold over 1,100 in the audience. The Silk Street Theatre is a good deal smaller and can cope with about 300 when it is set up as a conventional theatrical space with a proscenium arch. Expect high quality productions including those put on by the world famous Royal Shakespeare Company.


The London Borough of Hackney is not on many people's list of theatrical heartlands, especially if they are only used to West End theatres. However, Hackney is well blessed when it comes to theatres. Arcola is a small studio theatre which is getting a well deserved reputation for experimental theatre of note. You will still find productions here from well known playwrights, but these are often on short runs, frequently replaced by much less famous writers and completely new ones. You can also expect plays from foreign playwrights which have been translated into English on occasion.

Only a mile or two from Arcola, the Hackney Empire is one of the best preserved theatres in the whole of London. Here, the productions are diverse. You get anything from rock concerts, to comedy nights featuring stand up comics, to serious theatre. Some of the new productions that are put one here reflect the local community and would not have a chance in a West End theatre. Opened as far back as 1901, the theatre has a capacity of over 1,200 so it is the largest in East London. There are also revivals of old West End productions - and others - which have been hits in the past as well as a popular pantomime each Christmas.

Further East

Once outside of central East London, you tend to find theatres more sparsely spread out. A good one to check out is Theatre Royal Stratford East which lies close to the former Olympic Park in the heart of East London. A multi-purpose community theatre, the space is given over to plenty of music events as well as musicals and other sorts of work. Ye Olde Rose and Crown, which is further north in Walthamstow, is a pub which has converted its function room into a small studio theatre. This is a great place to come if you enjoy improvised comedy as well as some experimental works. In Ilford there is a stunningly well kept theatre with a modern auditorium which has plenty of high-quality but usually semi-professional productions on offer. The Kenneth Moore Theatre, Ilford is well known in East London and Essex for musicals and it has a capacity of only 365, so it can sell out quite easily.

People working in East London business locations like Barnet or Enfield should take the time to check out their local theatres as an easier option than the big-name venues.