People from different countries try not to miss a chance to visit one of the British theatres when they are in the United Kingdom. British theater is an important cultural phenomenon with long history full of ups and downs. Historians determine several periods of British theater development, and each one is unique and worth studying. The Romans established the first theaters on the British Iles. They constructed large auditoriums, such as the one excavated at Verulamium. In the Middle Ages, the early street theaters amused the audience with the stories about Robin Hood and Saint George. The actors moved around, shared folk tales, and danced.
The Church influenced the medieval period of theater development. Therefore, Christian topics and morality stories were popular. Numerous religious festivals hosted actors from all around, and they performed mystery and morality plays. Some great examples of religious drama are dated 15th century, for example the famous The Cornish Ordinalia was written around the year 1400.
Renaissance was the golden age of the arts, so the theaters were flowering of different plays. It is enough to mention the works of William Shakespeare who wrote around forty pieces of art. The most prominent plays included Othello, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and King Lear. It is also worth mentioning Christopher Marlowe, John Webster, and Ben Jonson. At that time, the Italian model influenced the British theaters. The revenge tragedy became a new genre in the dramatic literature.
It was interesting to see how the restoration theater followed the ideological and religious reasons of the Puritans. The audience became wider and socially diverse. That was the time when women were allowed to perform as professional actors. The audience was interested in watching comedies, the new genre of Restoration comedy was established in the middle of the 17th century. It was famous for its sexual explicitness. In the 19th century, the provocative comedies lost their popularity and the British theaters offered sentimental comedies along with domestic tragedies. Ordinary people had fun reading so-called closet drama. The plays were prepared to be privately read in a small room at home. The noble audience favored Italian opera and different mixes of genres. The outstanding theater writers of that time were Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.
Though it is interesting to learn about drama traditions in the UK, it is better to visit the West End of London and go to one of the numerous theaters. This is the British “Theatherland.” West End show is a must-see for every London visitor.