11 Places To Watch 'Off West End' Theatre In London

By Charlotte Maughan Jones Last edited 16 months ago
11 Places To Watch 'Off West End' Theatre In London
A black woman holds up a set of beads in front of her face. She looks deep in thought. Another older white woman is stood behind her with a concerned look on her face. Both are in brown smock dresses with white collars and cuffs.
Quality theatre isn't just reserved for the Shaftsbury Avenue. Coram Boy as staged by Tower Theatre. Photo: Tower Theatre/Giulia Paratelli

The West End isn't the only place to catch quality theatre in London. Venture off Shaftesbury Avenue et al, and the am dram scene is buzzing! Most groups refer to themselves as "non-professional" to help remove the immediate (if unjustified) image of wooden acting and shoddy sets, and while you won't get the celebs/production values of Theatreland, you will be rewarded with beautifully performed plays, musicals — and even opera — at a fraction of the price. Tickets are commonly under £20, too.

1. The Quay Players - Greenwood Theatre, London Bridge

Who are they? The Players are a proud community venture, and also have a youth group The Minor Quays, who get involved in the yearly pantomime.

What do they do? Two shows a year: a Christmas panto and a musical in the summer.

Previous productions include: Made In Dagenham, Oliver!, Sister Act, Cinderella, Legally Blonde.

2. South London Theatre - Old Fire Station, West Norwood

Who are they? Putting on a broad and eclectic mix of shows, South London Theatre aim to cater for everyone with musicals and family shows included in the repertoire. A recent £2 million refurbishment of their theatre space enables a vast array of productions.

When do they perform? They do approximately 20 shows a year, with a varied programme including Shakespeare, classic drama, modern comedies, plus brand new writing.

Previous productions include: Macbeth, Blue Remembered Hills, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Twelfth Night.

Blue Remembered Hills portrayed by South London Theatre. Photo South London Theatre/Phil Gammon

3. Putney Theatre Company - Putney Arts Theatre

Who are they? "One of the leading amateur theatre companies in the UK" according to the Putney Theatre Company website. Several of members plays have been published and performed elsewhere after debuting with PTC.

When do they perform? PTC stage around 12 plays a year, from monologues to large casts, including classic playwrights to showcases of members' self-penned works.

Previous productions include: Little Women, Nell Gwynn, The God of Carnage, Peter Pan, Enron.

4. Tower Theatre Company - Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington

Who are they? Although strictly non-professional, famous Tower Theatre Company alumni include Sian Phillips, Michel Gambon and John Bennet.

When do they perform? There's an extremely busy programme featuring a wide range of plays, from shorts to full length classics. They also tour their productions to other areas of the UK and even France.

Previous productions include: The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Coram Boy, Trainspotting, The Canterbury Tales.

Tower Theatre's exquisitely detailed set for "Talk Radio". Photo. Tower Theatre/Ruth Anthony

5. KDC Theatre - various London locations

Who are they? Performing in a variety of locations — including Barons Court Theatre (West Kensington), The Drayton Arms Theatre (Old Brompton Road) and The Lion and Unicorn Theatre (Kentish Town) — KDC happily take risks that other companies may not be able to, producing unique shows. They have also taken their shows to the Edinburgh Fringe.  

When do they perform? They put on wide variety of plays throughout the year, including devised performances.

Previous productions include: Obsession, Titus Andronicus, Carried Away (a series of super short plays).

6. Dulwich Players - various Dulwich venues

Who are they? The Dulwich Players perform in a number of locations in and around Dulwich, including Edward Alleyn Theatre and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Members are encouraged to get involved in all aspects, so the lead actress in one play may well be the director or sound engineer in the next!

When do they perform? Three main plays a year, likely including an outdoor performance and a pantomime.

Previous productions include: The Importance of Being Earnest, The House of Bernarda Alba, Steel Magnolias, Arcadia, Pride and Prejudice.

5 people on period dress are seen on a stafe. They are holding hands in 2 rows as if they are about to perform a dance.
On stage in South East London. Photo. Dulwich Players

7. SEDOS - Bridewell Theatre, Blackfriars (mostly)

Who are they? SEDOS stands for Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society, and was founded over 100 years ago by stock exchange members. Don't worry, you don't have to be a City trader to be a member or watch. Everyone is warmly welcomed.

When do they perform? Between seven and 10 performances are laid on a year, including both plays and musicals.

Previous performances include: American Idiot, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Ragtime, Frankenstein, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

8. Geoids - various London locations

Who are they? Formed over 80 years ago by university students studying Geography and Geology at King's College London, Geoids are now open to anyone who wishes to join or watch. Performances are at a variety of locations including John McIntosh Arts Centre (West Brompton), Bridewell Theatre (Blackfriars) and the Vaults Theatre (Waterloo).

When do they perform? They stage at least two big productions each year, plus cabarets and concerts. Oh, there's also their legendary '48 hour pantomime', where they rehearse and perform in just one weekend!

Previous performances include: Crazy For You, Kipps: The New Half A Sixpence Musical, The Pajama Game, A Little Night Music, Sweet Charity.

A stage full of people singing out at the audience. There are steps and multiple levels fo the stage, and people can be seen on each of these stages.
SEDOS production of Ragtime. Photo. SEDOS/dancersoflondon

9. Centre Stage - Bridewell Theatre, Blackfriars

Who are they? Along with SEDOS and Geoids, Centre Stage collectively form the London Drama Societies – committed to increasing and embedding diversity and inclusion within their productions.

When do they perform? There are at least two major musical theatre productions each year.

Previous productions include: CATS, Godspell, 9 to 5, Evita, High Society.

10. Questors - The Questors, Ealing

Who are they? Questors are one of the largest community theatres in Europe with over a thousand members. They also have an active youth theatre group. The current president is Dame Judi Dench, no less.

When do they perform? They do around 20 shows a year — classical and modern drama, as well as new and rarely-performed plays.

Previous productions include: Hairspray Jr., Pride and Prejudice, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Daisy Pulls It Off, Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

A large group of people in formal dress are stood and sat looking into the distance behind the camera. They are involved in an opera production
Opera Integra are one of the only societies to offer non-professional Opera. Photo. Robert Workman/Opera Integra

11. Opera Integra - various London locations

Who are they? Performing in a variety of locations (largely in churches in Notting Hill, Fulham and Hammersmith), former Opera Integra members have gone on to have successful careers with English National Opera, The Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and Opera Holland Park.

What do they do? Opera, of course!

Previous Productions include: The Merry Wives of Windsor (Nicolai), The Magic Flute (Mozart), Die Fledermaus (Strauss).

Last Updated 25 October 2022

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