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Arts Theatre

Theatre, Musicals Covent Garden
Arts Theatre_Susie Rea.jpg
© Susie Rea

Time Out says

This intimate venue is a place to enjoy the fringier side of the West End

Yup, technically the Arts Theatre is a West End venue, but shows at this smaller, scruffier venue don't have the mega production values of their glitzier theatrical neighbours. Instead of being designed to house commercial work, it started as a 'Theatre Club' in 1927. This meant that its members-only productions bypassed the beady eye of the Lord Chamberlain, who censored all mainstream British theatres at the time, taking a dim view of sex, violence, and slights on the monarchy.

This history lives on in the venue's late 20th century record for championing left-field, alternative productions. 'Waiting For Godot', Tom Stoppard's satirical double-bill 'Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land' and 'The Vagina Monologues' all had their London premieres here. But it's struggled to find similar success in recent years, often hosting musicals that aren’t really up to ‘proper’ West End standards. It's also escaped the wrecking ball several times, most recently when it was threatened with closure in 2006, and there are regular whispers that some kindly mega-producer is planning to buy the place out and give it a good sprucing up.

For now, though, the Arts Theatre is a refreshingly unpretentious and budget-friendly place to see a musical or a comedy show. Its popular cafe bar serves theatre fans who spill out onto the busy Covent Garden streets beyond. The auditorium seats 350 punters over two tiers. And since 2014, a second 60-seater space known as 'Above the Arts' acts as a studio theatre, home to cabaret and short runs by stand up comedians. 



Address: 6-7
Great Newport Street
Covent Garden
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square
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