11 places to watch ‘Off West End’ theater in London
The West End isn’t the only place to see quality theater in London. Venture down Shaftesbury Avenue et al, and the am dram scene is buzzing! Most bands call themselves “unprofessional” to help remove the immediate (if unwarranted) image of wooden actors and shoddy sets, and while you won’t get the celebrity/production values of Theatreland, you will be rewarded with great performances. plays, musicals – and even opera – at a fraction of the price. Tickets usually cost under £20.
1. The Quay Players – Greenwood Theatre, London Bridge
Who are they? The players are a proud community enterprise and also have a youth group The Minor Quays, who get involved in the annual pantomime.
What are they doing? Two shows a year: a Christmas panto and a musical in the summer.
Previous productions include: Made In Dagenham, Oliver!, Sister Act, Cinderella, Legally Blonde.
2. South London Theater – Old Fire Station, West Norwood
Who are they? Put on a wide and eclectic mix of shows, South London Theater aim to satisfy everyone with musicals and family shows included in the repertoire. A recent £2million refurbishment of their theater space allows for a huge range of productions.
When do they play? They do around 20 shows a year, with a varied program including Shakespeare, classic dramas, modern comedies, as well as brand new writing.
Previous productions include: Macbeth, Blue Remembered Hills, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Twelfth Night.
3. Putney Theater Company – Putney Arts Theater
Who are they? “One of the UK’s leading amateur theater companies” according to the Putney Theater Company website. Several of the members’ pieces were released and performed elsewhere after their debut with PTC.
When do they play? PTC stages approximately 12 plays a year, from monologues to major casts, classic playwrights and showcases of self-penned works by members.
Previous productions include: Little Women, Nell Gwynn, The God of Carnage, Peter Pan, Enron.
4. Tower Theater Company – Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington
Who are they? Although strictly unprofessional, famous Tower Theater Company alumni include Sian Phillips, Michel Gambon and John Bennet.
When do they play? There’s an extremely packed schedule with a wide range of plays, from shorts to full-on classics. They also tour their productions in other parts of the UK and even France.
Previous productions include: The Merchant of Venice, The Twelfth Night, Coram Boy, Trainspotting, The Canterbury Tales.
5. KDC Theater – various London locations
Who are they? Performing at a variety of venues – including Barons Court Theater (West Kensington), Drayton Arms Theater (Old Brompton Road) and Lion and Unicorn Theater (Kentish Town) – KDC willingly take risks that other companies might not be able to take, producing unique shows. They also took their shows to the Edinburgh Fringe.
When do they play? They put together a wide variety of parts throughout the year, including designed performances.
Previous productions include: Obsession, Titus Andronicus, Carried Away (a series of super short plays).
6. Dulwich Players – various locations in Dulwich
Who are they? The Dulwich players perform at a number of venues in and around Dulwich, including Edward Alleyn Theater and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Members are encouraged to get involved in all aspects, so the lead actress in one play may very well be the director or sound engineer in the next!
When do they play? Three main plays per year, probably including an outdoor performance and a pantomime.
Previous productions include: The Importance of Being Earnest, The House of Bernarda Alba, Steel Magnolias, Arcadia, Pride and Prejudice.
7. SEDOS – Bridewell Theatre, Blackfriars (mainly)
Who are they? SEDOS stands for Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society, and was founded over 100 years ago by members of the stock exchange. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a city trader to be a member or watch. Everyone is warmly welcomed.
When do they play? Between seven and 10 performances are scheduled per year, including both plays and musicals.
Previous performances include: American Idiot, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Ragtime, Frankenstein, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
8. Geoids – various locations in London
Who are they? Formed over 80 years ago by university students of geography and geology at King’s College London, Geoids are now open to anyone who wants to join or watch. Performances take place at various locations including the John McIntosh Arts Center (West Brompton), the Bridewell Theater (Blackfriars) and the Vaults Theater (Waterloo).
When do they play? They stage at least two big productions every year, plus cabarets and concerts. Oh, there’s also their legendary “48 hour pantomime”, where they rehearse and perform in a single weekend!
Previous performances include: Crazy For You, Kipps: The New Musical Half A Sixpence, The Pajama Game, A Little Night Music, Sweet Charity.
9. Center Stage – Bridewell Theatre, Blackfriars
Who are they? With SEDOS and geoids, center stage collectively form the London Drama Societies – committed to increasing and embedding diversity and inclusion in their productions.
When do they play? There are at least two major musical theater productions every year.
Previous productions include: CATS, Godspell, 9 to 5, Evita, High Society.
10. Quaestors – The Quaestors, Ealing
Who are they? Quaestors are one of the largest community theaters in Europe with over a thousand members. They also have an active youth theater group. The current president is Dame Judi Dench, no less.
When do they play? They do about 20 shows a year – classic and modern dramas, as well as new and rarely performed plays.
Previous productions include: Hairspray Jr., Pride and Prejudice, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Daisy Pulls It Off, Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
11. Opera Integra – various London locations
Who are they? Performing in various locations (largely in churches in Notting Hill, Fulham and Hammersmith), former Integrated Opera its members have gone on to successful careers at English National Opera, the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and Opera Holland Park.
What are they doing? Opera, of course!
Previous productions include: The Merry Women of Windsor (Nicolai), The Magic Flute (Mozart), Der Fledermaus (Strauss).