One of the world's major centres for theatre, Britain has a centuries-old dramatic tradition and about 300 theatres. There are several thousand amateur dramatic societies in Britain. The Royal Shakespeare Company performs in Stratford-upon Avon and at the Barbican Centre in London. A modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, close to its original site, is under way.
Most cities and towns in Britain have at least one theatre. There are 500 youth theatres in England alone. The Unicorn Theatre for Children and Polka Children's Theatre, both in London, present plays written specially for children, and the Young Vic Company in London and Contact Theatre Company in Manchester stage plays for young people.
Contemporary British playwrights who have received wide recognition include Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bannett, Caryl Churchill, David Hare, and Tom Stoppard. The musicals of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber have been highly successful in Britain and around the world.
The centre of theatrical activity is London, where it is concentrated mainly in London's West End. Theatres are very much the same in London as anywhere else. If you are staying in London for a few days, you will have no difficulty in finding somewhere to spend an evening. You will find an opera, comedy, drama, musical comedy, and variety.
The performances start at about eight and finish at about eleven. Seats are expensive and a night out at a theatre is quite a luxury for the average Londoners. Most theatres and musical halls have good orchestras, with popular conductors. Theatre organization in England differs greatly from that in Ukraine. Only a few theatres have their own permanent companies. Troupes are formed for a season, sometimes even for a single play. Some of the most known theatres in England are Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Old Vic and others.
During the Middle Ages plays were acted inside churches and later in the market places of towns. The first Theatre in England, the Blackfriers Theatre, was built in 1576, and the Globe, which is closely connected with Shakespeare, in 1599. And there were a number of others. The theatres of that time were nothing like the comfortable places we sit in today.
The stage itself was a raised wooden platform with no scenery. When the actors wanted to show the district in which a scene took place they simply put up a placard with the description of the district. There were no actresses at that time, and boys, who were trained for this purpose, acted instead of women.