This Sunday, October 3rd at 10am, enjoy a free tour of some of Westminster’s most celebrated buildings, presented by London Open House in association with Westminster Council (and participating building owners),
This fun and engaging walking tour — organised by Open House as part of Westminster City Council’s Inside Out festival — focuses on the capital’s cultural heartland in-and-around Covent Garden.
Dubbed High Notes and the High Life, High Art and the High Street, the entertaining and insightful route — led by former Royal National Theatre head of tours Alison Rae — charts the unique and often overlooked history behind Westminster’s great theatres, galleries and cultural complexes.
Revisiting these iconic locations as London re-opens its theatres and cultural delights — the tour will explore the enigmatic surroundings of Covent Garden where high art mixes with street performance, retail with relaxation and world-renowned icons such as the National Gallery and Royal Opera House rub shoulders with the informality of cultural diversions in Trafalgar Square and the Piazza.
The route charts the development of the area from a ‘convent’ garden of Westminster Abbey into residences for the gentry, and then from supplier of the nation’s fruit and veg to a key London destination. It also follows the evolution of west Strand from Royal Mews into the focal point of national celebration, and the re-purposing of Somerset House from 18th century home of Learned Societies to Arts hub housing over 100 creative and cultural enterprises.
As well as introducing the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in its refreshed livery, there are newer attractions and hidden gems to be discovered along the way. This walking tour focuses on how the area has responded to change over the years, adapted and developed to create the vibrant mix of activity we see today.
Highlights of the tour include the Theatre Royal Drury Lane — representing four centuries of continuous theatre use from Sir Christopher Wren’s first theatre on the site to Benjamin Wyatt’s 1812 building which now houses the majority of the public foyer spaces.
This landmark building recently reopened following a major overhaul by architect Haworth Tompkins which restored its historic lobby spaces to their former grand configuration and made the 1920s auditorium more welcoming and effective for contemporary audiences.
Other highlights include the Royal Opera House which has recently been transformed by Stanton Williams Architects — opening up what had previously been a fairly constrained set of spaces to the world outside. The architect’s new Bow Street extension now presents a welcoming public face to the building while the expanded and interlinked foyer spaces breathe new energy into front-of-house areas.
Providing a safe and fun way for enthusiastic urbanists aged 65 and over to explore the city, this tour will explore the architecture and history of Westminster’s cultural heartland and is presented by Open House as part of Westminster City Council’s Inside Out festival.
Meet: 10am on the River Terrace (facing the river Waterloo Bridge end) at Somerset House WC2R 0RN. Ends at Dury Lane. Duration: 2.5 hrs approx. BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL. Participants must be over 65 and bring proof.
The tour is scheduled to last approximately two and a half hours and finish at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
You can find out more details here book tickets here (while available- as this will undoubtedly sell out!).
With the pandemic curtailing most theatre as we have previously experienced it, producers and entrepreneurs have been spurred into creative overdrive in considering new and unusual forms of theatre spaces.
Brilliant independent producer Katy Lipson is part of a consortium engaged in design and construction of Vertical Theatre, a space for a variety of theatre forms in an in-the-round configuration with a majority of the audience seated in vertically tiered boxes. This space is designed to be portable so that it can be constructed, run and then struck and toured around the country, rather in the way we are used to seeing circuses sweep across the country’s parks and green spaces. Its an interesting idea.
Then there is the group who are planning drive-in theatre at one of the big London exhibition centres. Not sure how this one will rate, especially with all those emisssions (from the cars!).
In all of this creative flurry, one recent innovation sprang to mind whose time has perhaps finally come.
Of what do I speak, dear reader?
The Solotoria, of course!
What do you mean you’ve never heard of it!
As described on its website, Solotoria is ” a spectacular theatrical experience……one person at a time.”
Created by LIPA graduates Ashley Shairp and Sam Heath, Solotoria offers one person a 3-minute show in the plush surroundings that we have all missed this last year.
Audients can choose from attending the “Mini Blackpool Grand Theatre” for a comedy or a magic show. Those with higher-brow tastes can attend the “Mini Royal Opera House, Covent Garden” for a programme of either ballet or opera.
As the website describes, “the individual (solo) audience member wears a pair of headphones and places their head inside the space – the experience is immersive: each show has its own soundscape, the auditorium lights dim and the show begins…
The Solotoria toured the UK in 2014/5 to great interest and public acclaim for its ingenuity and care in its detailing of both auditoria models, as well as the mini-shows themselves.
You can watch a video of audients at a Mini Royal Opera House preview show here
And you can view the Solotoria at their website here
And here, at last, is the view of the Solotoria’s Mini Royal Opera House. Just for you!
(With thanks to Dr Maria Barrett for reminding me of this item)
If you are aged 16-30 (or know others who are), and have an interest in the theatre as a potential future career, then you simply cannot afford to miss the invaluable, totally FREE, once-a-year event that is TheatreCraft 2019.
This year, on Monday 11th November, the doors of the Royal Opera House will open to the main event, with a wide range of events featuring top industry names, all ready to share their thoughts and insight with you. And with dozens of bookable workshops happening at half a dozen nearby theatres, there is a huge range of things to do and participate in.
TheatreCraft is the only major event focused on offstage careers, in other words anything but acting. Lighting, Directing, Choreography, Writing, Sound, Music, Costume, Props, Stage Combat, Stage Management, Venue Management and more are all represented. Workshops allow a rare opportunity to hear firsthand from experts about what they do and how they do it. In most events there is also time for questions from the audience, so you can get more involved.
Having been a small part of the management of this event for the last three years, I can tell you firsthand that there is no better place to go to boost your knowledge and meet thousands of like-minded people. It’s a great day which you should not miss!
The day itself is run by a fantastic team of fun, hard-working volunteers and the industry participants all give their time free to be involved. You can learn more about being a TheatreCraft volunteer here