Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die is the wonderful book by Amber Massie-Blomfield. This love letter to Britain’s theatres combined my love of travel with the themes of theatre, the arts and history, beautifully. This homage to British theatre is especially poignant considering the current struggles facing the arts and theatre sector. So if you’re missing theatre terribly. Or simply want to learn more about Britains history through the arts, Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die is a great read.
What’s The Book About?
Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die is exactly that. A book about theatres across England, Scotland and Wales, that you must visit at one point in your life. But it’s not simply a listicle of the best or most famous theatres to visit. No. This book is so much more than that. This book takes you on a journey across Britain. As well as a journey through time and the history of theatre. With each new chapter, you learn more about how individuals, theatres of the past and different communities have shaped the theatres of today. But through personal anecdotes and shared memories, you also discover more about the authors love affair with the theatre. Which in turn makes you evaluate your own. For me, it reminded me of my first trip to London’s West End to see The Lion King. Or the time Dan and I stood for hours in the rain at Shakespeare’s Glove, watching an incredible performance of Much Ado About Nothing. A visit to a tiny theatre above a pub in Camden to watch a Doctor Who themed show with my family. Even memories from the petrifying experience of seeing Women in Black for a university assignment.
My Favourite Chapter
From the Grand Opera House in Belfast to Margate’s Tom Thumb Theatre or even The Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans. Each theatre included in the book has been painstakingly selected and researched by Massie-Blomfield. The theatres selected for the book may not be the most famous of Britain’s theatres but they all share a common theme. The author wished the theatres to be three things. Firstly the theatre must be in an unusual location. Secondly, it must be a working theatre (however sporadically their performances are). And thirdly, in the author’s words, “its story must speak to my sense of what theatres can mean to their communities”.
And with any book, some sections will make more of an impression than others. For me, it was the first of the twenty theatres, The Minack Theatre in Porthcurno, that was my favourite addition. This theatre has always been on my list of places to visit when in Cornwall. It’s an incredibly gorgeous open-aired theatre, with views of the night sky and the Atlantic Ocean. Its beauty is what made it onto the list. The history of how Rowena Cade dedicated most of her life to transforming this Cornish cliffside, is what keep it firmly on that list.
For anyone with a love of the arts and the theatre, this book is a must-read. This book reminded me how much I enjoy going to the theatre. How much the arts needs our support. And how many more theatres are out there to experience. So whenever and wherever theatres are likely to open again be sure to add a few, or even all, of these theatres to your list. If you want to invest in your own copy of Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die, you can purchase a copy from the Penned in the Margins website.
Until next time.
*NB* My copy of Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die was gifted to me by Penned in the Margins for the purpose of this post, but all views are my own.