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You’ll have no trouble finding arts-related activities to do in London. From the theatrical to musical events, the only real trouble will be fitting it all in.
Concentrated within the West End (generally considered the area around the Strand and Covent Garden) lies an unbelievable number of theaters, some with long running shows that either started in the UK or came from Broadway in the U.S. There are also many smaller venues that provide less mainstream productions, often referred to as “off West End”. The largest venues outside the West End that you may visit would be the Barbican, The Globe, The Old Vic or the Royal National Theatre. The longest running play in London is Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, now in its 60th year. It is currently at the St. Martin's Theatre. If you want to venture outside the bounds of the West End, the Royal Court in Sloane Square and the Bush Theatre in West London amongst many others offer a variety of shows, from plays by new writers to varied musical acts. For lighter entertainment, you could look out for Zippo's Circus, which spends a good part of its tour each year in and around London and its suburbs. For Shakespeare, a performance at the Globe is a must. There are many revivals of classical comedies around the West End, such as The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde at the Harold Pinter Theatre.
London has a rich musical life. It is home to five symphony orchestras (the London Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, and the BBC) and is well established on the touring roster for all of the World's great performers. The main concert venues are the Barbican Centre, the South Bank Concert Halls (the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room), the Cadogan Hall, and the Wigmore Hall. Also, during the Summer, the Royal Albert Hall is host to the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts ("the Proms"). There are two opera companies, the Royal Opera at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. The Royal Opera House is also the home of the Royal Ballet. Touring dance companies are usually to be found at the Sadler's Wells Theatre (and its smaller auditoria, the Peacock Theatre and the Lilian Baylis Theatre), which also plays host to touring opera companies.
Many world-premieres occur in London. Over the recent years London has seen significant premieres of Harry Potter films as well as James Bond films. The theatres around Leicester Square are generally where these launches occur. For visitors from outside the UK it is common for each screen to have allocated seating. Seating charts are available to view when purchasing tickets. London has a rich history of film, and the many theatres across London provide filmgoers the opportunity to see classics, independent film, art house film and foreign film. The British Film Institute (BFI) on the Southbank is one of the best venues for a wide range of film options, and also has an I-MAX screen. Historic theatres include the Electric Cinema and the Coronet in Notting Hill, and the Phoenix - London's oldest.
There are numerous on-line resources to assist you in planning your trip to an arts venue. For those interested in going to London's Theatre scene, the resource Theatre Monkey is invaluable. It provides updated information on what is playing at each venue, top 5 lists by category and detailed seating charts to help you identify where you should sit. Other resources to look at are Time Out London and Visit London for broad coverage of all London's arts events. To identify theatrical or musical arts opportunities that are a little less touristy, then look at London Unveiled.
The best way to get a deal on tickets is to either buy directly from the ticket office or check out the day-of-show deals at the Half-Price Ticket Booth in Leicester Square. The booth accepts cash and credit cards and opens at 10.00am. Be careful of the other booths and kiosks around here - these are NOT official Half-Price Ticket Booths, despite what they might say. The only official one stands alone in a small building at the south side of Leicester Square. If you are buying tickets from outside the UK and having them held for Will-Call be certain to bring the credit card you booked them with as this is generally required to claim them.