A brief history of theatre and its impact on modern day culture

Here's a brief guide to the history of the theatre in the UK.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 23rd Mar 2023

The theatre is still as crucial to culture as it was at its origins. From London's bustling West End to the theatres big and small found throughout our communities, there's nothing quite like seeing such drama play out in front of you. In celebration of all things theatre, we thought we'd take a look at the history of the theatre in the UK.

Early in the 10th Century, theatre can be traced back to performances by church ministers, eventually, these performances would start travelling from town to town and later on public performances would become more common. Although, these performances came to a halt when Henry VIII came to power.


Image credit: Samuel Regan-Asante (Unsplash)

Theatre would not see a large comeback until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Being a huge advocate of the works of William Shakespeare, his theatre company would often perform for her. By 1576, the first permanent theatre built solely for theatrical performances simply titled 'The Theatre' was built in Shoreditch.

In 1599, one of the most iconic theatres in the UK, The Globe was built but it wasn't too much longer before in 1642, the theatre would find itself closed again due to The Puritans who were under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. They even destroyed The Globe too, yet the theatre would not stay down for long.

With the reign of King Charles II came the great rebirth of the art form, key theatres such as Theatre Royal were built and a royal decree demanded that female characters would only be played by female actors, ushering in an age of influential actresses. 


Image credit: Clem Onojeghuo (Unsplash)

Fast forward to the 1900s and we see some of the most beloved theatres in London open such as The Apollo, The Garrick and The Lyric Theatre. This is how we got to the thriving theatre business that we still see today. Yet, it has spread from its beginnings in the capital and has spread throughout the UK.

Each city has a theatre, where classic stories and new ones are brought to life by dedicated actors. These stories find their origins as far back as Shakespeare's classic plays, where story elements and even full plots have been adapted into movies too. There's no doubt that the stories found originally on stage have transcended the audience and reached into the wider culture.

Productions that started in the 1900s or even earlier are still going to this day such as The Mousetrap, Les Miserables and pretty much any of Shakespeare's works. Going to the theatre is an opportunity to see some of the best actors around perfecting their craft, and delivering stunning performances that stay with you for a long time.

We're selling for the very best theatre shows right here on Skiddle, whether you're looking for fantasy, sci-fi or family-friendly friendly shows, we've got something for everyone. You can take a look at the latest upcoming shows here



Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.







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