All the World's a Stage - Especially when you're in London
Updated: Jan 27, 2021
Despite fighting chronic homesickness and a shrinking bank account, I managed to squeeze in a lot during my 3.5 months in London. Here's what I did, and what I recommend you check out, when the world returns to normal - starting with theater.
If you’re a fan of theater, you’ll be thrilled to hear it is dirt cheap here. I’m talking maybe £30 on average. (In the US, you’re lucky to go to a show for $100, and that’s for the seat in the back behind a pillar with not-so-great speakers.) Even if you’re not a hardcore musical fan, it’s an experience in itself to attend a show in London’s theatre district. I saw Waitress (which I highly recommend if you want to simultaneously laugh and cry all while eating a personal raspberry pie during intermission) and Wicked (my favorite musical of all time - call me basic).
Students can sometimes get even cheaper seats than the general public. They do a lot of raffles and giveaways to make it more affordable and accessible to everyone.
Beyond the contemporary theatre district, take a step back in time and stop by Shakespeare’s Globe. While not the original building (you can blame a mid-production fire for burning down the first and the Puritans’ hatred of the arts for demolishing the second), this theater showcases dozens of Shakespeare’s work in as close to the Renaissance model as possible. Tickets for the “Yard” are pretty inexpensive because they’re standing-room only - hence why it was where the peasants and townsfolk once watched. My friends and I stood in the Yard for the production of “As You Like It,” and while entertaining, the show was a little over two hours long, so we dipped out early to sit down.
If breaking the fourth wall is your thing, London thespians have your back. I experienced two immersive theater shows while there. For Halloween, I went to the “Mad Hatter’s (Gin &) Tea Party", which was held at an obscure bar about an hour Tube ride outside of King’s Cross. There were probably 30 people attending, and we were each greeted with a “Welcome Drink,” then told to pick out a crazy hat from the selection hanging on the wall. From there we descended down a staircase to what seemed like an underground version of Wonderland. For an hour and a half we brewed our own whimsical cocktails as the characters interacted around us, and with us - which made it both fun and stressful, considering the drinks were strong and I was a little worried about falling out of my dainty chair. Overall it was a great night - I just wish they’d let us keep the hats!
While The Great Gatsby experience also involved alcohol, there was little time to drink it. Called “Immersive Gatsby,” this production was unlike anything I’d ever seen. We walked through the doors into a decently large, round open room, with an Art Deco-styled bar on one side and a couple of risers with minimal tables and chairs on the others. My friends and I popped a bottle of champagne in excitement. Without warning, the cast appeared, bringing the story of Daisy and Gatsby to life from all angles. One minute we were watching Myrtle dance on the bartop, the next we were all learning some basic 1920’s footwork ourselves. One of my favorite aspects of the show was how during certain scenes, Daisy would pull some of us girls out of the main room and into “her bedroom” to talk about her situation with Tom. We were literally giving The Daisy Buchanan relationship advice. Tom did the same with the guys, and it was funny because my friends and I would often get separated by the characters, only to reunite for a later scene.
Attending some form of theater in London feels like a rite of passage. The city is home to so much literature and art, and if you’re going to experience a show, you might as well do it in the land of Shakespeare.