Right in the heart of Bath is one of Britain’s oldest theatres, and probably its most beautiful: the Theatre Royal. Before 1805 the theatre was in Orchard Street (Sarah Siddons played there from 1778; now it is a Freemason’s Hall). In addition to the Theatre Royal, there are regular productions at the Rondo, two miles east in Larkhall.
The Victorian front you see was stuck over the old side entrance of the Georgian original after fire damage.
The 1805 Rooms and Ustinov theatre offer conference facilities for 940 people.
A wide range of productions is put on from Shakespeare to musicals.
In the Ustinov Theatre at the back of the main building you can often see both improvised and scripted comedy shows. The Natural Theatre Company, based in Bath, are highly original and entertaining.
Cyclists don’t have to worry about having their vehicle towed away (as many latecoming drivers who park outside find to their cost – £120 cost). There are cycle racks right by the entrance – well, four of them, anyway.
There are facilities for the disabled.
At Christmas and New Year, there are traditional family pantomimes.
Ghost walks – guided tours of Bath’s spookier streets and alleys – start here every night from the Garrick’s Head pub. It is said that the ghost of Juliana Popjoy, Beau Nash’s lover, haunts the restaurant next door, while the Grey Lady haunts the vaults of the Theatre.
The Garrick’s Head pub is part of the Theatre Royal building, and the left-hand side bar is a meeting place for gays and lesbians.
The Theatre was founded by John Palmer who also founded the Theatre Royal in Bristol. Bath’s was the first theatre outside London allowed to have the ‘Royal’ tag, by George III. Next door to the Theatre is the former house of Beau Nash, the man around whom all Bath’s social life revolved in its 18th century heyday.
Cheap standby tickets are available from noon – queue up at the box office in the theatre itself. Views are slightly restricted but OK. (And if you see some empty seats once the performance starts, why not sneak over and sit in them…) This is a very cheap way of seeing some top-class theatre, comedy and opera.
Opera fans can often find productions of the classics here, for much less than they would cost in London.
A visit here makes for an ideal evening out, with plenty of restaurants and bars right nearby.
There are plenty of pubs round here for a quick drink before or after which you’ll find rather cheaper than the Theatre bar.
Many of the restaurants around here do specials for theatregoers that guarantee you’ll be away in time for the performance, and there is a restaurant in the Theatre itself.
The standard of theatre here is high – indeed, many of the West End productions come here, some before they start their run in the capital. Backstage tours are available.