How to be amused in Victoria
What's on at the theatre
Queen Victoria is oft quoted as saying, "We are not amused". Until recently the part of London named after her indeed used to be a rather dull, a place that you'd pass through on your way to Belgravia or to Westminster. But in recent years it's been undergoing a bit of a transformation. There are now lots of shiny chrome new buildings containing a variety of retailers and restaurants, and three thriving theatres. Situated so close to both an underground, main line railway station and the coach station it's certainly easy to get to, especially for South Londoners like us.
So what's on currently in Victoria that you might like to see? If you like big Broadway/West End style musicals, then Wicked should be on your to-see list. Running since September 2006 it's certainly doing something right. So what's it all about? Wicked tells the parallel story to the The Wonderful Wizard Oz. It focusses on the stories of Glinda the Good and Elphaba The Wicked Witch of the West, and how they got to be that way. Expect great staging, a big cast, and wonderful songs. Suitable for ages 7 and above - it's a show for all the family.
Whilst the tube was being upgraded, the Victoria Palace Theatre was boarded up and looked very sad. And then the buzz of excitement grew when we learnt that it was to be the home of Hamilton, which opened in London in 2015. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, wondering if a show about the Founding Fathers of America would really hit the spot with a British audience. Indeed, I had to brush up on my history before seeing it as I was a little worried that I wouldn't follow the plot otherwise. One of the many joys of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is that it offers us unstuffy history: it’s an energetic show in which a largely non-white cast capture the spirit and emotion of revolution. I was surprised how well the genres of rap, hip-hop and R&B worked with the subject matter.
In brief, Hamilton, is “a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman” who leaves the Caribbean to become George Washington’s right-hand man. He marries well, overcomes a sex scandal and dies in a duel with his rival Aaron Burr who is his nemesis and the show’s narrator. Many of the actors play dual roles so you do need to pay attention. For comedy value the characters of Layfette and George 111 get my vote.
Tickets are released in blocks regularly. A very secure system means that ticket scalpers can't re-sell them, please only buy these directly from the theatre or you won't be admitted.
Built in 2012 The Other Palace is a lovely modern theatre, with two spaces. The main theatre seats 312 and the studio theatre 120. It often bring over off-Broadway shows, and new works to its stages as well as cabaret and jazz. Currently Falsettos is playing in the main theatre. Dealing with love, religion, marriage, divorce, break-up, modern families, and ultimately death, this completely sung musical takes you from laughter to tears (I had a bit of a sob). The acting is outstanding - and the characters complex and flawed. This is a musical play that you must see before it closes on 23rd November. It will be replaced by Amelie the Musical - I've got my tickets already!
The Other Naughty Piglet is located on the upper floor of the theatre. I've eaten there on many occasions whilst visiting The Other Palace and have always been impressed, every item on the menu is interesting and prepared with great skill, this certainly is British cooking excelling.
So if you fancy a night at the theatre, why not shun the West End and give Victoria a try instead?
Where to eat in Victoria if you're going to the theatre:
Our favourite: The Other Naughty Piglet
Apollo Victoria Theatre
17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LG ·
020 7828 7074
The Other Palace
12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA
Victoria Palace Theatre
Victoria Street, Westminster, SW1E 5LA