Thursday, September 16, 2010

Barbican Theatre - The Venue for a 'Les Miserables' Return

The location of the Barbican Theatre is an area of London that was devastated by bombs in December 1940. The area lay neglected for 12 years until construction began on the Barbican Complex, 35 acres of concrete buildings built between 1971 and 1982. It incorporates apartments, an arts centre and a school for music and drama. The D-shaped arts centre includes the Barbican Theatre

The name of the complex and theatre derives from its London location in proximity to where the Roman walls once existed on which were built barbicans or watch towers.

Main entrance to the theatre.
The mass of the Barbican buildings are among the most difficult to navigate. With the arts centre located at the middle of it all, the Barbican has published online maps to let visitors know how to find the venue. Click here for an example of the map and you can see how countless theatergoers unfamiliar with the area are lost upon entering the complex. If attending a performance at the Barbican and unfamiliar with the complex, it is highly recommended to add a minimum extra half-hour of travel time to find your way through all the concrete to the theatre.

The auditorium of the Barbican Theatre is the most modern of London theatres. It seats about 1,100 on four levels. Unusual is the upper three levels consist of only two rows each with the most distant seat only 65 feet from the stage. There are no aisles and each row leads to an individual door, held open before the show and during the intermission by an electromagnet. When the houselights dim, all the doors close in unison caused by the desensitizing magnets. This creates some theatrical magic before the show begins. There is no curtain for the stage. Instead a huge stainless steel curtain rises from the floor to meet another descending from the celing. The building as a whole is often described as ‘airport architecture’ but no one will deny the comfortable seating and breathing room the wide open foyers, bars and box office offers during intermission and before and after performances.

The theatre was largely unknown to audiences around the world until the musical ‘Les Miserables’ premiered here in 1985 before moving to the West End’s Palace Theatre.  More info about the centre at

The theatre lobby/foyer.
Plaza outside of the theatre.


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