London’s Most Essential Theatres (& others I’ve never been to!)

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I’ve written two columns for The Stage this week that contain a countdown of my Top Twenty most essential theatres in London — 20-11 are here and 10-1 are here.
This is, of course, a highly personal and subjective list — I’m not expecting people to agree with my  choices. (I make no apology for including the Union Theatre (entrance cafe menu shown above, where I get an almost daily caffeine fix since it is just around the corner from my office!) right near the very top of my list at number five — it’s one of my favourite theatres in the world!
These are just the theatres I couldn’t do without. I realise, too, that there are inevitably omissions — most egregiously, I failed to include The Finborough (left), which Neil McPherson has long run as one of the most exciting fringe theatres in London (if also one of its most uncomfortable), and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find a spot, either, for one of its most comfortable, Jermyn Street Theatre.
But there are other theatres that I have to confess I simply don’t visit often enough (or even at all) for me to consider them ‘essential’. The outpouring of love for BAC, for instance, after its recent fire  means that lots of people regard it as essential; it’s just that I personally don’t get there often enough to regard it as such. Ditto Theatre 503 in the new writing stakes.
And I have to confess: I have never (yet) been to the New Diorama, the Yard or Camden People’s Theatre, so although I hear good things about all three, I’m not in a position to judge. Part of me is simply afraid to go to them: my schedule is already rammed enough, without adding more theatres to the mix! And I do sometimes find that, once you’ve made one trip to a theatre, a critic is often bombarded by requests for repeat visits… so it’s simpler not to go at all!
I daren’t even begin to think about regional theatres that I think are ‘essential’ for the same reason. But aren’t we lucky that there’s so much to choose between?
Please let me know your hot tips for venues I should put on my radar.

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Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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