London is a goldmine of quality theatre. Just take a look at all the amazing shows on right now. And we're not just talking about the glittering (and often exorbitantly priced) West End shows. There are thought-provoking and creative productions taking place above plenty of London pubs.
Below is a map of every pub theatre worth knowing about in London. Cheaper than those fancy Theatreland productions, most of these places have a much better beer selection to peruse during the interval too.
Looking at our map, it's fascinating to see the circle shape the pubs form around the City and the West End. It almost forms an invisible boundary that maps up reasonably neatly with what people consider "central London".
What's the reason for the lack of central pub theatres? Well, we suspect it has something to do with the numerous non-pub theatres on offer. Also, pub-theatres tend to thrive in residential areas — just as people view pub theatre as an alternative to bigger theatres, so too is the area you're going to. Somewhere a little quieter.
Below are some of the highlights from our map.
Old Red Lion Theatre Pub
If there's a pub theatre equivalent to the West End, it's Angel. There are four high quality pub theatres here, each worth a visit. If we have to whittle it down to one, then it's hard to ignore the Old Red Lion. It's got a cavernous pub downstairs and a brilliant theatre above. In recent years, it debuted one of London's most successful shows, The Play That Goes Wrong, which now lives on in the West End.
Old Red Lion Theatre Pub, 418 St John Street, EC1V 4NJ
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
The Gatehouse stands formidably at the top of Highgate Hill, looking down at the rest of the village. And looking down on the Gatehouse, is Upstairs at the Gatehouse. The highly versatile space has seen hundreds of shows since its inception in 1985. Of particular interest are the Ovation Theatres productions — who also run the theatre. They nearly always run a classic Broadway musical during the winter months.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate West Hill, N6 4BD
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Royal Vauxhall Tavern is one of London's premiere LGBT venues, and its event listings reflect that. Drag shows and cabaret, both of which present a riotous good time are on the menu here. These shows feel no need to play it safe, you might be watching Drag Kings one night — H.P. Loveshaft anyone? — and Meghan Markle drag themed show the next. Ok, this isn't pub theatre in the most traditional sense, but there's always the annual Christmas Panto, where things get a little more adult than your usual community theatre offering.
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, SE11 5HY
In leafy Chiswick lies one of London's most stunning pubs, The Tabard. It hangs out over the pavement in a medieval style, and the inside is just as remarkable with tiling depicting bucolic nature by William Morris' mate William De Morgan. We recommend the pub's cuisine before you head upstairs for the theatre. There's a diverse range of shows on here, from plays aimed at younger audiences to more serious fare, and big names from the world of comedy like Al Murray and Richard Herring.
Tabard Theatre, 2 Bath Road, W4 1LW
View this post on Instagram
A space that transforms with each production, except one thing stays the same. It's always above the Prince Albert pub in Notting Hill Gate. The theatre says it imagines its work as a conversation with the audience, and brings ground-breaking international plays to a London audience. Therefore its one to visit for an evening when you've got your thinking cap on.
The Gate, 11 Pembridge Road, W11 3HQ
Above an Irish boozer — The Oxford Arms — on the unfathomably busy Camden High Street, could seem like an odd choice for a pub theatre. However Etcetera makes it work and has now hosted over 2,500 productions, and often the same stage hosts two a night. Like many other pub theatres, it's a popular comedian haunt, but puts on a diverse set stage shows too — from bi-lingual surrealist pieces about gods, to horror-action-comedies about an outbreak at the monster institute. It's especially buzzing during Camden Fringe, which takes over for the majority of August.
Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High Street, NW1 7BU
View this post on Instagram
This newbie, isn't the best established theatre on this list. Nor does it have the biggest productions. Instead we've included it because of two curiosities. One, its extremely central location, just moments from London Bridge makes it stand out. Secondly, it isn't connected to pub per se, instead German Bierkeller: Katzenjammers. So fill up your stein and then head in to the intimate 50-seat theatre, to watch some fresh voices in the theatre world.
Katzpace, 24 Southwark Street, SE1 1TY
Situated on 503 Battersea Park Road — hence the name — above The Latchmere, Theatre 503 makes the bold claim of staging more work by first time writers than any other theatre in the country. Now it's nearly impossible to prove whether this is true or not, but a glance at the programming makes it look exceptionably believable. The theatre stages the first productions of writers who've gone on to collect plenty of industry awards, so attend a play here and remember the playwright's name — they might just be tomorrow's superstar.
Theatre503, 503 Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW
West Brompton's Finborough Theatre is one of the most beloved pub theatres by London's dramatic community. So much so, that plays regularly sell out — if you want to see a production here, booking in advance is a must. If you do decide to chance your luck and wander up on the day of, you'll see the pub from a distance, thanks to its green paintjob. And if you can't get a ticket, there's a good selection of craft beers downstairs to cheer yourself up with.
Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, SW10 9ED
If there are any other pub theatres you know of, which deserve to be on this map, let us know in the comments below.