Just as Broadway has Off Broadway, London’s legendary West End theatre district is complemented by a host of Off West End theatres–smaller, more intimate venues showcasing edgy productions that lack the mass appeal of the blockbusters. With affordable tickets and a laid-back atmosphere, these thought-provoking shows are perfect for a date night filled with culture and fun. Among the finest–and hardest to find–is the Finborough, a pint-sized playhouse located above a pleasant pub in Earls Court. The theater company housed within produces new, controversial works by emerging playwrights as well as obscure plays from the 19th and 20th Centuries that have gone unduly by the wayside. But whether you’re seeing the latest in 21st Century avant-garde or a rediscovered gem from Tennessee Williams, you’re guaranteed a spectacle that will leave you thinking about it long after the curtain has fallen.
Look for the narrow, three-story green and yellow building standing peculiarly at the junction of Finborough and Ifield Roads. Seen head-on, it could be a set piece from a play itself, but guide your sweetheart inside and up the stairs for the real drama. To call this theatre cozy would be an understatement–you’ll be occupying two of just 50 plush red seats–but that’s precisely what makes performances here so electrifying. Even in the back row, you feel like you could reach out and touch the actors.
Every show staged here is excellent, but if you come during the month of September you can enjoy The Flouers O’Edinburgh, a period satire by Robert McLellan that transports audiences to the Scottish Enlightenment of the mid-18th Century. You’ll laugh, cheer, and applaud as a battle between the Scots and English languages unfolds before you.
When it’s over, you won’t have far to go for a post-show drink. Simply head downstairs to the Finborough Arms and choose from twelve beers and ciders on tap and an impressive selection of wines (a pro tip: order the Malibran Sottoriva Prosecco–a Italian sparkling wine that’s a favorite of the theatre set). If you’re hungry, the kind staff will even run next door to Firezza to fetch you and your date a hot, delicious Salsiccia pizza with savory sausage, rich mozzarella, and spicy chili. As you relax in this charming Victorian pub savoring the food, drink, and company, you both agree: this isn’t just different from a night out in the West End. It’s better.