Free Weekend? Try our Top 5 Theatre Guide

From plays on top of pubs to musicals in the park, where are the best venues to see thespians doing their thang?

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must-see venue during the Camden Fringe
must-see venue during the Camden Fringe

5. Camden People’s Theatre

This Hampstead Road hub really comes into its own during the Camden Fringe, gaining a reputation that should be sustained further for the rest of the year. It’s a small 60-seater space absolutely dedicated to the production of new theatre, all big ideas and small boundaries, at the moment manifested in Heads Bodies Legs, a satirical and surreal comedy set in a private hospital. Using elements like animation and music, it thrills its audience into thinking that Trafalgar Transformed: The Hothouse was playing it safe. £10, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London, NW1 2PY

Red Peppers at Old Red Lion
Red Peppers at Old Red Lion

4. The Hen and Chickens Theatre Bar / Old Red Lion

As a two for one entry let’s plump for The Hen and Chickens theatre and the Old Red Lion, because you might as well make the fare to Islington worth the while. Both are charming in their huddled smallness with ale-soaked walls. The Old Red Lion is specifically famous for its record of West End transfers, most recently Happy New and The Play That Goes Wrong. Right now there’s a Noel Coward double bill, Still Life and Red Peppers, both fast-paced (maybe too much so) and witty. Tuesday is ‘pay what you can’ at The Old Red Lion, so why waste that opportunity? As for the Hen and Chickens, check out upcoming The Best Man at the end of the month, set to be hilarious. £1-£17. 109 St Paul’s Road, London, N1 2NA. £11.25. Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London, EC1V 4NJ

3. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

The Open Air Theatre is an experience in itself before the play even starts. Weather permitting, the setting is beautiful: natural and ancient. The Sound of Music, on now, is a notoriously tough nut to crack. The audience go in with weighty expectations, but this version is far from a disappointment. Regent’s Park has given the musical a new lease of life; you might be singing all the way home, (no one will bat an eyelid through Camden). Eat beforehand though to avoid excessive expenses; unless you’re taking a date, then one of their picnics is the best way forward. £25-£55, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4NR

2. The Lion and Unicorn

The stage at the Lion Unicorn.
The stage at the Lion Unicorn.

The Kentish Town arts space well and truly brings community theatre into a league of its own. It’s an intimate venue that uses the vehicle in eclectic and varied ways to tell a story. There is a hefty focus on in-house productions from the long-standing and respected Giant Olive Theatre Company, who boast equal success with serious drama as they do with classic musicals. In the spirit of diversity The Lion and Unicorn will be hosting the Go Live dance and performance festival in September. At the helm of the entire theatrical goings on is, of course, a bloody good pub. £12-£15, 42-44 Gaisford Street, London, NW5 2ED

1. Hampstead Theatre

This modern space in Swiss Cottage has a golden reputation. The Hampstead is famous for new writing and is a playground for established writers, actors, producers and directors to try something new, a different strand of theatre. Novelist William Boyd’s retelling of Chekhov’s short stories, Longing, blew critics out of the water last year. This is set to be matched by hero Terry Johnson’s farcical Hysteria, opening in September, in which two genius minds collide. I’d recommend hanging around in the bar afterwards, as there are always interesting people to talk to. £14.50-£32, Eton Avenue, London, NW3 3EU


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