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Menier Chocolate Factory

  • Theatre
  • Southwark
  • Recommended
Menier Chocolate Factory
© L Rees-Harris

Time Out says

There are theatres that punch about their weight and then there's the Menier Chocolate Factory, the 150-seat venue that regularly fires out transfers – particularly of musicals – to the West End, and enjoys a close relationship with the great Stephen Sondheim.

The programming tends to be a sweet, crowd-pleasing mix of musicals and lighthearted plays, plus the occasional revue show imported from New York, and even the odd comedian. Some of its biggest hits have included 2010 'The Cage Aux Folles' with Catharine Zeta-Jones, 2015's 'Funny Girl', starring Sheridan Smith, and 2018's Trevor Nunn-directed 'Fiddler on the Roof'. 

Today, the Menier has a loyal fanbase and a knack for attracting legit (if well-seasoned) theatre names. But when the Menier's co-founders Danielle Tarento and David Babani first set up shop in 2004, they took the risk of opening their new theatre in a long-derelict former Menier chocolate factory in the then-unglamorous backstreets of Southwark. 

The Menier is now one of a small cluster of high-profile Bermondsey arts venues, with the Unicorn and Bridge theatres just down the road. Arrive early to appreciate its atmospheric underground bar, complete with a collection of relics found during the process of restoring the 1860s building it stands in. The restaurant – a long-term fixture that used to offer menus themed around individual shows – was a casualty of the pandemic and seems unlikely to come back.


53 Southwark St
Tube: London Bridge
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm
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What’s on

The Third Man

  • Musicals

Kicking off a run of three musicals in a row at the Menier, ‘The Third Man’ is, of course, an all-singing version of Graham Greene’s classic Orson Welles-starring film noir. It has to be said, it’s a pretty daunting prospect to adapt: the film is regarded as one of the greatest ever made, with a distinct harsh black and white aesthetic, and Welles’s performance is perhaps the greatest ever supporting turn in film history. The somber world of bombed-out, factional post-war Vienna does not obviously lend itself to a musical. But then a lot of stories that shouldn't work as musicals do, and director Trevor Nunn has been at the helm of several of them, most notably ‘Les Miserablés’.  In any case, ‘The Third Man’ – by old-time pros George Fenton (music), Christopher Hampton (book) and Don Black (lyrics) – is at least an intriguing prospect, and there’s no denying the greatness of the source material, Greene’s twisty thriller about Holly Martins, an American who arrives in the Austrian capital to see his friend Harry Lime, only to discover that he’s died in a car accident. But has he? Fatefully, Holly decides to stay on to investigate the matter.

Close Up – The Twiggy Musical

  • Musicals

Co-creator of a clutch of iffy early ’00 musicals – most notably ‘We Will Rock You’, but also Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Beautiful Game’ and ‘Love Never Dies’, plus ‘Tonight’s the Night’, a semi-forgotten Rod Stewart jukebox affair – It’s fair to say that Ben Elton has had a long time to think about what he’s done. Now he’s finally returned to the world of musical theatre with ‘Close Up – The Twiggy Musical’, a biographical affair about the original supermodel, who epitomised Britain in the Swinging Sixties as much as The Beatles. Following the one-time Lesley Lawson from obscurity in working-class Neasden to global fame and damehood, it sounds like ‘Close Up’ will be a jukebox affair soundtracked by classic ’60s and ’70s tunes (or the ones they can get the rights to, anyway). It’ll be directed by Elton himself, with the casting of Twiggy TBC.

Pacific Overtures

  • Musicals

The Menier follows up two new musicals that could probably go either way – an adaptation of classic film noir ‘The Third Man’ and Ben Elton’s Twiggy musical ‘Close Up’ – with the literal thing the Southwark powerhouse does best: A Stephen Sondheim revival. The first one it’s staged since the great man’s death in 2021, this production of ‘Pacific Overtures’ is a collaboration with Japan’s Umeda Arts Theatre and has already played warmly received seasons in Tokyo and Osaka. One of Sondheim’s highest concept and least commonly staged musicals, the 1976 work imagines a Japanese playwright creating a play about the Americanisation of Japan. It is pretty darn tricky to get your head around, but all the more reason for actually staging a thing, especially in a co-production that hopefully ducks suggestions of Orientalism. Matthew White directs. 

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