Traveling with Millennium Tours on a Baylor Theatre Study Abroad guarantees one thing: lots and lots of theatre. I firmly believe theatre is for everyone. Sometimes you may see shows that are not your taste; recognizing a show’s craftsmanship even when your taste different is a lesson in humility we learn as theatre majors at Baylor. I encourage you to check out the variety theatre offers to find one that may resonate with you!
For the fan of the big and the musical varieties
Odds are you are already a theatre-goer if you gravitate toward shows made from blockbuster films or touting musical scores. London has an extensive set of theatre known as the “West End” that host their largest shows in terms of space and spectacle. Long-running titles include Les Miserables and Mamma Mia, but these spaces also host the newest catchy hits. In our time, these included Back to the Future: The Musical, Frozen, and Life of Pi. These tickets can get expensive, but the app TodayTix is a great travel hack. On TodayTix, you can browse currently running shows, book bargain seats, and even “rush” tickets day-of for discount prices. Some shows are simply worth the splurge; I attended Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on our final day in London for a full day of stage magic and childhood nostalgia. If you have loved a story in your life, there will be a show for you here!
For something quintessentially British…
On the South Bank of the Thames in Shakespeare’s time beat the heart of the city’s theatres, and centuries later this remains the case for the reconstructed Globe Theatre, the Bridge Theatre, and the National Theatre. While the former may not be the original stomping grounds of the famous bard, American actor Sam Wanamaker rebuilt Shakespeare’s Globe in the late 1990s as a center for education and the works of the world’s most famous playwright. You can tour or even attend a Shakespeare production in the wooden O, modeled after the very theatre Shakespeare would have written for. Just down the river is its concrete cousin, the Royal National Theatre. Founded by famous British actor Laurence Olivier in 1976, the National Theatre is the country’s leading theatre, endorsed by the royals and subsidized by the United Kingdom. It has been an artistic, educational, and entertainment center for the city since its establishment and only continues to be so. Every British actor wants to work at the National Theatre, and many do. You can stream the National Theatre Collection from dozens of countries across the world to see actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, David Tennant, and more grace its stages. As a public building, the Nat fosters community by welcoming anyone into its lobby to study, work, dine, or converse. Since it is home to multiple stages, we watched both Jack Absolute Flies Again and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in our time. Both were incredible and will be available to view at home later this year!
For Something Innovative…
Creativity abounds in a city with so much value in its theatres. From experimenting with audience immersion to commissioning new plays, smaller fringe theatres can offer a unique theatrical experience. My favorite plays often come from this innovative genre of new and exciting theatre. In London, companies like Punchdrunk, the New Vic, and s. We saw Punchdrunk’s Burnt City this trip, but I feel I should mention we participated in it more than saw. Known for their immersive theatre form known as environmental theatre, the theatrical company Punchdrunk builds its landscape in non-theatre buildings and takes the audience into the story by allowing them to follow the actors by foot between numerous rooms. In Burnt City, we walked between the warring Greek cities of mythical characters such as Agamemnon and Persephone in a contemporary context. Incorporating movement and led by the freedom to walk wherever you choose, this experience is different for each and every person inside. Other companies such as the New Vic and the Bridge Theatre are known for their investment in new plays and new takes on old plays. I attended a production by the New Vic outside of their space on site at the Alexandra Palace which became my favorite of the trip! Tom, Dick, and Harry used theatre to tell the story of the escape of WWII prisoners of war from a camp in Poland. Written and researched by two of the actors in the company, I was enthralled by the ways in which this small company of actors invited us as an audience into their world. Be sure research a unique company or two before you visit England!
One small wisdom before you go: Programs are not free at British theatres. You’ll pay about 5 pounds, but in return you’ll receive articles written by experts on the topics you will be seeing, a full cast and crew rundown, and even some insights into the rehearsal or creative process! For instance, at the show The Southbury Child by Stephen Beresford, we received a helpful brief on the history of the Church of England, a thoughtful reflection on funerals, and photos of the rehearsal process with the actors. Worth every penny —I mean pence!
I challenge you to see some theatre on your next trip abroad. Bonus if it’s something you cannot see in the U.S. or if it is of a type different than your typical taste!