It should never be said that London has enough theatres! The West End and Central London area may be blessed with over 60 major playhouses plus countless other smaller venues, but in the West End especially there is a bottleneck: too many shows want to come in, and there aren’t enough theatres to accommodate them.
Hopefully this problem will be eased, if never solved, by the opening of a number of prime new London theatre venues in 2022.
Some of the timelines of the projects have slipped due to Covid, but most of these are on track and we can’t wait to see them open and busy.
Bridge Theatre in King’s Cross
Architects Haworth Tompkins are once again working with the London Theatre Company – led by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr – on their new venue in King’s Cross.Haworth Tompkins did the honours on the LTC’s Bridge Theatre near Tower Bridge, and it’s widely considered to have been a huge success, offering a beautiful mix of glamour, sophistication and a damn comfortable and flexible auditorium. They also recently completed the refurb work on the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Donmar Warehouse, and designed the Young Vic.
The new venue in King’s Cross was meant to open in 2021 but has now been pushed to early 2022. It is located on Lewis Cubitt Square in Meta’s (Facebook’s) new building, and the theatre will feature a swanky foyer, bar and 600 seat auditorium – all based on the modular system used at the Bridge Theatre (although the Bridge is bigger, with 900 seats).
The developer of the whole King’s Cross area is Argent, who have been working away on the 67 acre site for a number of years, creating a huge new area of London including 50 new and refurbished buildings and a network of new streets, squares, parks and public spaces.
Our main question is: what’s this new venue going to be called?
Soho Place Theatre in Soho
Crossrail, the massive construction project that has built the new Elizabeth tube line across London, is controversial for lots of reasons, not least the fact that it is years late. But another reason was the demolition of the Astoria Theatre on Charing Cross Road, a much loved and historic cinema, theatre and dance venue since 1927.
Whilst WestEndTheatre.com would always (always) rather see a building restored than demolished, the benefit of the new scheme being built where the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road is situated, is that London gets a new theatre.
Located at numbers 2 & 4 Soho Place, fronting Charing Cross Road, Sutton Row and Goslett Yard, the new Soho Place Theatre will be run by Nimax Theatres, who also own the Vaudeville Theatre, Garrick Theatre, Palace Theatre and more. The 40,000 square feet, 5 storey theatre will seat 600 people (although the architects website says 350), and has been designed in consultation with Nimax boss Nica Burns.
The theatre will be the first purpose-built theatre for in-the-round performance in London and the first new-build theatre in the West End for 50 years – since the New London Theatre, which is now called the Gillian Lynne Theatre. The architects are AHMM, who have worked extensively at the Barbican and designed proposals for the regeneration of the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Soho Place itself is a massive 285,000 square mixed-use scheme on the corner of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road, directly above Tottenham Court Road station. The whole site – including the theatre – is due to be completed in the first half of 2022.
UPDATE: This theatre will now be called @sohoplace – see more images and info here.
Brixton House in Brixton
The doors are nearly open on the impressive new South London theatre Brixton House, in oh so trendy Brixton.
The original Ovalhouse theatre (in Oval!) closed at the end of 2019 after 50 years, and now they get a fabulous new home. The building will have two performance spaces, the main theatre seating up to 200 and the smaller venue up to 120, plus seven rehearsal studios, a cafe/bar, and all of the socialising areas you would expect.
Designed by Edmund Wilson of Foster Wilson Architects, Brixton has deserved a fabulous big theatre for years, it’s great that it will now get it. Opens in early 2022.
Woolwich Works in Woolwich
This venue is actually already open, but it deserves to go into our 2022 list because the main part of the complex – where Punchdrunk will stage their massive new show next year – isn’t open yet.
Woolwich Works is a collection of renovated warehouses in Woolwich Arsenal, forming the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s new creative district. The venue has a 1200 seater performance venue, external courtyards for performances, five studios for performances and rehearsals, and cafe, bar and events spaces.
Punchdrunk’s new show – The Burnt City – will take place in their permanent new home within Woolwich Works. The enormous size of the buildings, at over 100,000 square feet will provide a scale never before seen in a Punchdrunk show. The buildings will also host Punchdrunk’s offices where the company develops new works across theatre, TV and gaming.
Southwark Playhouse – London Bridge and Elephant & Castle
The Southwark Playhouse is getting two new venues in London between 2022 and 2025.
The first is right in Elephant & Castle, a few minutes walk from its current temporary home on Newington Butts. Located on Dante Place, the brand new theatre will be a 300 seater flexible space, and should open during the first half of 2022.
Plus, they plan to return to London Bridge in 2025 and double their audience capacity with a brand new 250 seater main house, and 150 seater studio. The new theatre, which will cost £10 million, is to be located in the new Foster and Partners’ redevelopment of Colechurch House, between Duke Street and Tooley Street. The developers, CIT, have promised that the theatre will get an “affordable” rent for the duration of its life in the building.
Artistic director ofSouthwark Playhouse, Chris Smyrnios, told the press recently: “The move back to London Bridge has been a long time in the making, with many twists and turns. This deal with CIT brings us back to the London Bridge area and gives us a new venue that will provide us with much needed capacity, which is critical to ensuring the future of our organisation. We get a brilliant new theatre that sits right at the gateway to London Bridge Station. It will mark a step-change in our artistic output, and also open up exciting new possibilities for our youth and community programmes.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new theatre “The Garden Shed”
It’s not strictly a 2022 project as planning permission is still being obtained, but Andrew Lloyd Webber also hopes to have a new venue running in the next year or so in the heart of Covent Garden.
With a working name of “The Garden Shed”, he plans to open a new arts hub for presenting and rehearsing new work, with two small, flexible auditoriums – a 100 to 120 seater on the ground floor, and an 80 seater in the basement.
Coming off the back of the massive refurbishment Lloyd Webber recently completed of his Theatre Royal Drury Lane venue, currently playing Disney’s Frozen The Musical, the new venue would be situated next door to the Theatre Royal at 6 Catherine Street in Covent Garden.
6 Catherine Street was extensively renovated before the theatre opened by Lee/Fitzgerald architects, and is Lloyd Webber’s head office for his Really Useful Group.
Other new venues in London
And there’s more because the King’s Head in islington is getting a new venue in 2022.
In Islington, pub theatre institution The King’s Head is going to move from its back-of-a-pub location of 50 years, to a brand new development in Islington Square, just behind the pub. Designed by architect Graham Currie of ISA, it will have a 250 seat auditorium and an 85 seater studio theatre. Opens 2022.
In terms of the exciting new Greenwich Festival Theatre in Greenwich, which theatre producers Selladoor Worldwide (Bring It On) had proposed to renovate, sadly talks collapsed with the council in 2020. The new theatre complex was to have been a 650 seater main auditorium and a 240 seater studio space, plus brasserie bar and rooftop terrace. It’s located on the site of the Greenwich Borough Halls, and would have renovated this art deco building that was at serious risk. However, that doesn’t now seem to be the plan.
Also worth a note is the revamp of the Actors Centre in Covent Garden as the Seven Dials Playhouse. The rebranded space opens for performances in February 2022 and promises to be a studio receiving house for London.