Rosebery Ave, London, EC1R 4TN
LocationUnlike most other London theatres that are situated in the West End, the Sadler’s Wells Theatre enjoys a unique position in the Islington area of London. Close to Angel, Highbury and Islington and King’s Cross tube stations, Islington is a vibrant and modern part of the capital with a multitude of fashionable restaurants, bars and cafés in the locality. Camden Passage boasts an array of cute vintage clothes shops and antiques dealerships, and local attractions include the Business Design Centre.
Getting thereBy Tube: The nearest station to the Sadler’s Wells Theatre is Angel on the Northern line, a 250m walk from the building. Kings Cross station is also within walking distance.By bus: Numbers 19, 38 and 341 all stop close to the theatre. There is also a Sadler’s Wells Express bus that transports guests to Waterloo, Waterloo East, Farringdon and Victoria stations from the theatre.By taxi or car: The theatre has its own car park with 15 spaces for those over 60 and the disabled; it is necessary to ring in advance to reserve a space. Otherwise, there is a car park on nearby Bowling Lane Green, and free on-street parking after 6.30pm.
SeatingSadler's Wells is based in Islington, minutes walk from Angel Tube Station. The beautiful main theatre space has been renovated to give it excellent acoustics and also allow for a stage extension when a larger performance space or pit is needed. The venue now seats over 1500 people over three large levels, with good views from most of the auditorium.
The Stalls are the largest seating section and are not divided by a central aisle. There is an excellent rake within the section, meaning that all seats overlook the audience in front of you, giving a clear view of the performance space. The seats are somewhat rounded from the shape of the stage, although even seats on the end of each row boast good views and are not sideways facing. The Circle levels are set back above the Stalls, and so the overhang does not interrupt the action as in many traditional theatre spaces.
The Circle is similar in shape to the Stalls, although there are a number of boxes and slips that run along the side of the auditorium and are closer to the stage. Leg room is overall very good on all levels and the rake is again an added factor when considering where to sit. Although the section can feel overwhelming, there is a clear view of the stage and action. The Upper Circle is once again set back above the Circle, although does not feel too high. It is undivided, and feels as deep as it is wide. Due to the rake you can feel quite high in this section, so the slips/boxes may be worth looking at for a closer view of the stage.
AccessibilityThe Sadler’s Wells Theatre has a traditional layout with 3 levels, the Stalls, First Circle and Second Circle. The entrance is at street level and does not have any steps, with wide automatic doors. Inside the theatre all floors are serviced by a large lift, and there are no areas that are inaccessible to disabled visitors and wheelchair users. Concessions are available when using the theatre’s dedicated Access Scheme, which also notifies members of forthcoming special performances.
Wheelchair spaces and transfers to aisle seats are available in all sections and must be booked in advance, with all levels reachable via the lift. There are adapted toilets with touch pads on all levels, and the bars, café and restaurant within the theatre are all accessible with a wheelchair. During a performance wheelchairs and scooters can be stored in the middle stalls, side stalls and at the back of the First Circle.
The theatre is equipped with an induction loop point, infra-red system and portable hearing system. Audio-described tours and touch tours are occasionally available, and an unlimited number of guide dogs are permitted inside the auditorium or can be left with an usher for the duration of a show.Access bookings telephone line +44 (0) 20 7863 8000 or access booking form
HistoryAsk anyone to name a famous company from the world of ballet, and it’s almost certain that the first to come up will be Sadler’s Wells. Synonymous with dance culture, the Sadler’s Wells Theatre originally opened in 1683 and is renowned for its world class ballet productions, with contemporary dance and opera also appearing on the agenda in more recent years. There have been six theatres in total built on the site since the initial building opened over 300 years ago, with the present theatre consisting of two performance spaces: a main auditorium that can accommodate up to 1500 audience members, and the Lilian Baylis Theatre, a more intimate 200-seat auditorium.
The name ‘Sadler’s Wells’ dates all the way back to the 17th century, when the owner of the site, Dick Sadler, discovered an ancient medicinal well underneath his music house and turned part of the building into a spa. However as the years went on the theatre became more well-known for its entertainment, with 18th century acts including jugglers, rope-dancers, wrestlers, dancing dogs and singing ducks! This emphasis on light entertainment meant that by the 1840s the theatre was largely known for pantomime, light opera and variety, a far cry from its current classical output. However, the arrival of actor-manager Samuel Phelps in 1844 heralded a series of Shakespearean plays, in a brief glory period that disappeared in the late 19th century into music hall and cinema performances.
Nonetheless, with the takeover of Lilian Baylis in 1925 the Sadler’s Wells Theatre gradually grew in stature and popularity to become the beacon for classical entertainment that it is today. The 20th century saw opera and ballet come to the fore of the theatre’s programming, with the building both putting on its own productions, receiving touring groups and launching the careers of new talent. The Kabuki Theatre, Netherlands Dance Theatre and Kodo Drummers all performed at the theatre, and there were revivals of shows including The King and I and The Sound of Music in the subsequent years. Matthew Bourne’s acclaimed Swan Lake also had its premiere at the theatre in 1995.