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Top London theatre venues - chosen by you

Want to know the top theatre venues in London?

By Andrzej Lukowski
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In July and August 2015 we conducted a public online poll of London’s favourite theatres – and the results are intriguing. All the big names are in there – you people really love the National Theatre, it turns out – but proving you're a discerning bunch there’s a fine showing for some of London's smaller, hipper theatres. 

No West End theatre made the top ten, though maybe the odds were stacked against venues without artistic directors. Based on an editorially chosen shortlist of 35 theatres, our poll attracted thousands of votes. We’ll be doing it all again next year – only better, with the option to vote for EVERY London theatre. For now, congratulations to the top ten, and everyone else, because in theatre, everyone’s a winner, all the time. 

Top ten theatre venues in London

10. Southwark Playhouse

The busiest and biggest theatre on the London fringe, the currently Elephant-based Southwark Playhouse has two diverse houses, a lively bar and a formidable reputation for everything from new writing to obscure musical revivals.

Battersea Arts Centre_CREDIT_Pau Ross (1).jpg
© Pau Ross

9. Battersea Arts Centre

London’s community-conscious, ever-changing temple of the experimental was almost destroyed by fire earlier this year, but it’s a testament to the indomitable BAC spirit that only one night of shows were cancelled.

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The Donmar Warehouse 2010
© Johan Persson

8. Donmar Warehouse

Under current boss Josie Rourke, the once exclusive Donmar has really opened up its doors, making ticket access easier, offering a more youth-friendly programme, and teaming up with More4 to screen its recent election night comedy ‘The Vote’ to the entire country.

Almeida Theatre
© creativebusinessphotography

7. Almeida

This tiny Islington theatre went from MOR backwater to the most exciting house in the country when new artistic director Rupert Goold took over a couple of years back, leading the Almeida to a string of bold West End transfer triumphs.

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6. Old Vic

Long-term artistic director Kevin Spacey recently went out on a big high with ‘Clarence Darrow’, but the future’s looking bright for the venerable theatre under new boss Matthew Warchus.

Young Vic_CREDIT_Philip Vile.jpg
© Philip Vile

5. Young Vic

It’s been an astonishing few years for the Young Vic, which has scored hit after hit by bringing avant-garde directors from around the world and pairing them up with first-rate Brit acting talent. Its recent ‘A View from the Bridge’ was probably the definitive production of the Arthur Miller classic.

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4. Royal Court Theatre

One of the most important new writing theatres in the world since it seized the zeitgeist in the 1950s, the Court remains a wilful, brilliant and challenging institution to this day.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, illuminated for the Paralympic Games
Pete Le May

3. Shakespeare’s Globe

Theatres don’t get more iconic than Southwark’s stunning Elizabethan theatre, a boisterous temple to Shakespeare that recently added an atmospheric, candlelit indoor theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

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2. The Yard Theatre

Alright, alright, the Yard probably campaigned a bit harder than other theatres to get this surprise number two result. But it also reflects the intense affection in which this innovative, award-winning theatre – one of a shockingly tiny number in east London – is held.

1. National Theatre

Quite probably the greatest theatre on the planet, it would have been a bit of a shocker if the recently done-up NT hadn’t topped the list. With four houses, a live broadcast empire (NT Live) and one of London’s most iconic buildings, there’s nowhere quite like it.

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