LocationThe Arts Theatre is situated in the Theatreland district of London, between Covent Garden and Leicester Square. The area is renowned for its theatrical ties and the majority of the capital’s theatre venues are located here; consequently there is a wealth of bars, restaurants and cafés in the vicinity for patrons to choose between. Covent Garden square, with its market, hubbub of street performers and high street shops, is a short walk from the Arts Theatre as is the lively nightlife of Leicester Square.
Getting thereBy Tube: The nearest train station is Leicester Square on the Northern and Piccadilly lines.By bus: Numbers 14, 19, 24, 29, 38 and 176 all stop close to the theatre.By taxi or car: There are plenty of taxis running through the area due to its high level of tourist activity. The nearest car park is at 20 Newport Place.
SeatingThe Arts Theatre is a small Off-West End venue situated in the heart of Leicester Square. The theatre has a reputation for delivering a wide variety of new plays, readings and smaller intimate shows. The venue is divided into two levels, with only 351 seats split between the Stalls and Circle. The Stalls exists as one block of seats, although depending on the production this can vary. Best seats in this section are towards the centre, and those seats at the extreme ends of each row should be avoided. Pillars around row G can restrict the view for those behind them, but usually these are not too obtrusive.
The Circle can be used in Thrust style with two small rows on either side of the stage. The section is only 6 rows deep and so views are pretty good from all over the section.
AccessibilityThe Arts Theatre is a small venue with just two levels, the Stalls and the Circle. The main entrance has double doors and is accessible via a ramp. Discounts and concessions are available for wheelchair users for all performances.
The Stalls are not accessible to wheelchair users due to unavoidable steps, but the Circle has level access and space for one wheelchair. Transfer seating is available. There is an adapted toilet in the Circle that has level access. The bar is 19 steps down from the foyer, but drinks can be brought to patrons in their seats.
At present the theatre does not have an induction loop or infra-red system installed, although signed events and touch tours are available on occasion. Up to 2 guide dogs are welcome inside the auditorium during each performance, and a dog-sitting service is also available.Access bookings telephone line 020 7492 9930 or access booking form
HistoryThe Arts Theatre is somewhat unique among West End theatres, given its small capacity and exclusive role as a receiving house for touring theatre companies. The auditorium can only host 350 audience members at a time, making it an ideal base for independent theatre companies aiming for a short run rather than many weeks of consecutive shows. This emphasis on independent theatre is something that has been existence from the theatre’s earliest days, all the way back to its opening in 1927. At the time it existed as a members’ club and was thus able to get around regulations for preventing the performance of unlicensed plays, avoiding censorship. As such, a number of experimental and diverse plays were performed under the roof of the Arts Theatre as part of the movement termed ‘the Other theatre’ by producer Norman Marshall.
The theatre initially opened with a revue show under the name of Picnic, although its first significant production was arguably Young Woodley in 1928. In 1938 there was a month-long revival of the play Oscar Wilde, and in 1942 the theatre became known as the ‘pocket national theatre’ under the management of Alec Clunes and John Hanau. Perhaps the most important moment in the theatre’s history came in 1955, when a 24-year-old Peter Hall directed the first English language production of Beckett’s seminal work Waiting for Godot. The 20th century also witnessed plays by boundary-breaking writers such as Tom Stoppard, in addition to shows by the Unicorn children’s theatre.
In recent decades the Arts Theatre has hosted plays including Another Country and The Vagina Monologues, and even branched out into musicals with its production of Closer to Heaven, the Pet Shop Boys musical. A number of theatre companies are scheduled to perform at the theatre throughout 2012, covering music, comedy and drama.
- The Wipers Times, opened 21 Mar 2017, closed 13 May 2017
- Dirty Great Love Story, opened 18 Jan 2017, closed 18 Mar 2017
- A Christmas Carol, opened 08 Dec 2016, closed 07 Jan 2017
- Murder Ballad, opened 29 Sep 2016, closed 03 Dec 2016
- American Idiot, opened 08 Jul 2016, closed 24 Sep 2016
- Stig of the Dump, opened 19 Jul 2016, closed 26 Aug 2016
- A View from Islington North, opened 18 May 2016, closed 02 Jul 2016
- All That Fall, opened 13 Apr 2016, closed 14 May 2016
- NotMoses, opened 10 Mar 2016, closed 09 Apr 2016
- American Idiot, opened 17 Jul 2015, closed 21 Nov 2015
- Ushers: The Front of House Musical, opened 09 Sep 2015, closed 18 Oct 2015
- Ghost Stories, opened 13 Feb 2014, closed 15 Mar 2015