LONDON LIFE • September 2019
Immerse yourself in a candlelit Elizabethan playhouse, or take a subterranean journey through Waterloo Station’s tunnels; if you want a peculiar playhouse in the UK’s theatre capital, editor and theatre critic Bridget Galton knows just the places…
Named after the actor who drove The Globe’s reconstruction, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (the Globe’s smaller, Jacobean theatre) is a magical candlelit jewel that slips you into the leather jerkin of an Elizabethan theatre-goer. Until 12 October, the venue will be transformed into London’s most riotous event, the Bartholomew Fair – shut down by authorities 200 years ago. Ben Jonson’s eponymous comedy is updated into an event of interactive proportions, with boozers, butchers, pimps and pickpockets. Shakespeare reputedly died of a fever after a drinking binge with Jonson, so expect dark, depraved and dishonourable deeds.
Where to eat: Delicious modern British fare in the Thameside Swan restaurant.
Step through the graffitied doorway beneath Waterloo Station’s arches and enter a subterranean maze where make-believe comes true. Disney’s Fantasia, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl’s The Twits have all been conjured in the atmospheric Vaults theatre. This autumn it hosts both a site-specific revival of David Hare’s The Permanent Way, based on first-hand accounts of the chaotic privatisation of Britain’s railways, and Red Palace, an immersive masquerade that is part ball, part cabaret. The Prince unlocks the doors of the palace just once a year, so enter, lose yourself down tunnels, and create your own fairytale finale.
Where to eat: The Royal Festival Hall’s stunning Skylon restaurant.
In a Regent’s Park glade there’s an open-air theatre that has hosted thespians since 1932, including theatre royalty Vivien Leigh, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench and Damian Lewis. It even stayed open during the Blitz. Now, whimsical fairy lights strung in the trees create an idyllic venue to see award-winning plays and musicals. Until 21 September, director du jour Jamie Lloyd revives Rice and Lloyd Webber’s Evita. Based on the extraordinary Eva Peron, who rose from poverty to become the first political celebrity, it features hits such as Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
Where to eat: Bring a picnic or order from the theatre’s Grill or Covered Dining terrace.
The Cutty Sark was once the fastest ship afloat, ferrying cargoes of tea from China to London. Now gloriously restored after a devastating fire and fixed in a Greenwich dry dock, it houses one of London’s most interesting performance venues: the Cutty Sark Theatre. Tucked into the hull of the 150-year-old vessel, it hosts theatre, music and comedy. Dates are to be added, but on 20 October, ex-Albion Band member and War Horse composer John Tams, along with folk accompanist Barry Coope, celebrate six decades of joint musicianship.
Where to eat: Stave off scurvy at pie-and-mash shop Goddards at Greenwich.
Underbelly is a free-spirited, summer-long festival (ends 29 September) to be found in the shadow of the London Eye. This lively venue hosts an eclectic mix of circus, cabaret, comedy and kids shows, with some teetering on the outrageous. Home to one of London’s biggest outdoor bars, there is ‘udderly’ delicious food and drink on offer. From 14 to 28 September, liberate your inner diva with Phoebe Katis’ 007 Voices of Bond. Channelling the spirit of Shirley and Adele, she romps through five decades of Bond theme tunes faster than an Aston Martin down a ski slope.
Where to eat: Mac-and-cheese croquettes dusted in parmesan from food stall and croquette specialist Nanny Bill’s.