Gielgud Theatre – Insider Guide

The Gielgud is one of the nicest theatres in the West End


The Gielgud Theatre was known as The Globe for most of its 113 year history. In 1994, after a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe was built on the South Bank, iit was renamed in honour of Sir John Gielgud. You will see many fascinating photographs, programmes and drawings featuring the great actor around the theatre. It was built in the Louis XVI style so there’s lots of gold and many beautiful features including an oval gallery above the foyer.

Interior shot of the Gielgud Theatre in London showing the oval gallery
Inside the Gielgud Theatre

Where is the Gielgud Theatre?

You will find the Gielgud on Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of London’s West End. The postcode is W1D 6AR. The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus.

What are the best seats at the Gielgud Theatre?

The Gielgud has 889 seats spread across three levels- Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. You go downstairs to the Stalls. There isn’t much of a rake or slope but the stage is high so the view from most sets is good. I recommend the seats in the centre, about six rows from the front and 8 seats from the side.

The front of the Dress Circle is more or less level with the street, so that’s the place to go if you’re using a wheelchair. The accessible toilet is in the foyer at the same level. The first few rows in the centre offer a good view if you like looking down on the stage.

Insider tip

You’ll need to wear cool clothes if you visit the Gielgud. By which I don’t mean trendy clothes but ones that keep you cool because the theatre’s cooling system is pretty poor.

What about the bars?

There are bars in the Foyer, at the back of the Stalls and in the Dress Circle.

What are the toilets like at the Gielgud theatre?

Here’s some good news. The Gielgud is among the best of London theatres for toilets, according to The Stage newspaper’s survey. There’s a ratio of 32.3 women per toilet.

This is the official website for the Gielgud Theatre delfontmackintosh.co.uk/theatres/gielgud-theatre

Watch the YouTube review of the Gielgud Theatre on the One Minute Theatre Reviews channel 

Sweat at The Gielgud – review

Sweat- an important visceral play by Lynn Nottage.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

There is so much I could say about this play but I want to concentrate on the central story which concerns the deindustrialisation that happened in the US in the early 21st century. It’s something we in the UK are only too familiar with.  Our government, like many others, moved the economy away from manufacturing, letting those jobs go to China, Mexico and other developing countries where labour was cheap.

Production shot of Leanne Best, Martha Plimpton and Clare Perkins in the Donmar production of Sweat at the Gielgud Theatre
Leanne Best, Martha Plimpton and Clare Perkins in Sweat. Photo: Johan Persson

In Sweat the action takes place in 2000 in Reading, Pennsylvania and is based on true events surrounding factory closures. Lynn Nottage has created complex believable characters and we see at first hand their sense of ­betrayal,  loss and anger. They feel betrayed because generations had worked at the factory and displayed what they saw as loyalty. They lose their way of life and their sense of worth.

In a succession of scenes, the main characters meet up in a bar that looks as industrial as a factory. In particular we meet two good friends Tracey and Cynthia. At first all is well but we can see the seeds of what will happen. Unlike Tracey and her son Jason (Patrick Gibson) who see working on the line as their lives, Cynthia and her boy Chris (Osy Ikhile) aspire to get away from the grind of the factory floor. Chris plans to go to college, Cynthia would like to move into management.

Both women apply for a supervisor vacancy, Tracey just for the hell of it but Cynthia because she really wants it.  When the more suitable Cynthia gets it, Tracey who’s white puts it about that Cynthia only got the job because she’s black- in other words, because of positive discrimination. Racism, it seems, is just waiting below the surface like sewer beneath a road. When the factory threatens jobs, the division between old friends just gets worse as does prejudice against any ethnic minority.

Martha Plimpton in Sweat. Photo: Johan Persson

Tracey is repulsive. She’s undoubtedly the life and soul of the party but she’s also ignorant and blindly prejudiced. And very aggressive- Mike Tyson would hesitate to pick a fight with her. It’s a layered character brilliantly conveyed by Martha Plimpton. You are appalled by her but you know enough about her to recognise her as a fellow human and to realise her biggest problem is a lack of education, which leads to her inability to see the bigger picture, and her failure to see that her interest lies in unity not division.

Clare Perkins in Sweat. Photo: Johan Persson

When we go forward eight years, we see the long lasting devastating effects of job loss on individuals when a whole community becomes poor. Frankie Bradshaw’s set now represents the isolation of homes rather than the community of the bar. Clare Perkins breaks your heart as Cynthia who dreamed of improving her life and ends up used, abused and struggling to survive.

There is a shocking act of violence involving Jason and Chris that stems from the threatened factory closure. Perhaps Jason was always likely to resort to violence when under pressure but it is easy to see what happens as a metaphor for the blows against the establishment struck by working class people voting for Trump or Brexit.

Lynette Linton‘s direction is tight and the characters express themselves as physically as they do verbally. While the production might not be as visceral as it must have been in the cockpit of its original venue The Donmar, Sweat remains a harrowing, important experience. It brings home the shocking reality of the effect of deindustrialisation on people and communities.  It also gives us an insight into why we are seeing such a rise in racism and populism.

Sweat can be seen at the Gielgud Theatre until 20 July 2019. Click here for information and tickets

Click here to watch watch the review on YouTube