If you’re on a city break and want to soak up some real Liverpool culture, a trip to the Royal Court Theatre should be right up your Penny Lane. Each production at this beautiful Grade II-listed theatre has a Merseyside theme, cast and crew, making it very popular with its supportive local audience. But it’s not just the Royal Court’s home-grown comedies and musicals that attract such a loyal following. No visit would be complete without trying the full dining experience at the theatre’s cabaret-style tables in the stalls.
With past lives as a circus, rock venue and comedy club, the site of the Royal Court Theatre has been at the heart of Liverpool culture for 200 years.
Originally opened as a Cooke’s New Circus in 1826, a fire in 1931 completely destroyed the original building. Rebuilt in art deco style in 1938, it is now thought of as one of the most iconic landmarks in the city.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the venue was home for touring productions whenever they came to Liverpool. From Vivien Leigh to John Gielgud, some true legends have trodden the boards here, with Dame Judi Dench making her acting debut at the Royal Court in 1957.
Although the theatre fell into neglect, its faded glamour made it the perfect venue for the alternative music scene, with The Smiths and New Order rocking out here in the 1980s.
After a brief stint as a comedy club in 2005, the Royal Court moved back to producing theatre shows in 2007. Since then its undergone a real renaissance, thanks in part to a multi-million-pound refurbishment that took the interior back to its former opulent glory. But it’s the Royal Court’s new focus on encouraging local talent that has really given the theatre both passion and purpose – and attracted a brand new following.
With its city centre location right by Lime Street Centre, the Royal Court Theatre has lots of travel options. But if you fancy strolling to the theatre, there’s also a Premier Inn just minutes away.
While finding the Royal Court by car is easy, remember you’ll have to brave the city centre traffic so give yourself plenty of time to get there. Drivers should follow signs for the City Centre. Bear left as soon as you pass Lime Street Station and you’ll find the theatre next to the Queen Square bus station.
As the Royal Court is next to Queen Square bus station, you won’t find it hard to get here by bus. It doesn’t matter what time you decide to call it a night either, as most of the city’s night buses start from here. Going further afield? You can get buses to Liverpool’s surrounding areas here too, from Bootle to Widnes.
Coming to the theatre from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport? Take a bus to the Queen Square bus station which is right next door to the Royal Court Theatre. Alternatively, just hop into a taxi which will take you right to the stage door.
The Royal Court is easily reached on foot from anywhere in the city centre. It takes less than 20 minutes’ legwork to get you here from the historic Waterfront area and it’s a pleasant 12-minute stroll from the Liverpool ONE shopping complex.
Whether you’re arriving from Liverpool Central or Liverpool Lime Street, both stations are less than a five-minute walk from the Royal Court. For those less able (or those carrying lots of luggage) hailing a cab from both stations is easy, too.
Special parking deals are on offer if you’re going to see a show. Head to St John’s Centre car park by punching in the postcode L1 1LQ on your sat nav – it’ll take you to the entrance of the main car park. Check your ticket though, as you can only park in certain spaces to get the special parking rate.
No time to take in a show but still want a visit to this lovely art deco building? You can book a Heritage Tour. Lasting two hours, you’ll need to book in advance, but all money goes to a good cause – the restoration of the building.
With a capacity of just 1,196 the venue feels small and intimate wherever you sit, but that’s not the only thing that’s special about the Royal Court Liverpool. The full dining experience is well worth it and the added bonus is that people eating get a more spacious seat right near the front.
The Royal Court Liverpool is laid out very differently from other traditional theatres. Although the circle and balcony look much as you’d expect, the stalls have been changed to a three-tier arrangement of cabaret-style tables with space for waiting staff to pass through and a handy bar at the back.
Thanks to its recent refurbishment, there is now full wheelchair access to the stalls. If you’re disabled but not a wheelchair user, there is a lift to the circle and balcony, but no wheelchair accessible seating. People with access issues are asked to arrive 30 minutes before the show so staff can help them get comfy.
While there are no restricted views, booking a pre-show meal in the stalls gets you closest to the on-stage action. If you prefer to sit in rowed seats, the circle is the next level up and has a great view. Higher still, the balcony is also set out in rows but they climb so steeply that they’re not recommended if you suffer from vertigo!
The Royal Court’s renovation has totally transformed the foyer area, opening it up to include a lovely coffee bar. Open daily, friendly staff serve a range of locally sourced food. Once inside, there is a swish new box office, a bar at the back of the stalls, a new first-floor terrace and a bar that serves the circle and balcony.
Choose the Royal Court’s pre-theatre dining option and you’ll need to book your meal when you buy your ticket. Make sure you arrive no less than an hour before the show to enjoy your meal. There are two bars within the theatre - one stays open later, so you may even be able to mingle with the cast and crew.
As it’s right in the middle of the city centre less than five minutes from Lime Street, all the standard big chain restaurants are within easy reach of the Royal Court. Want something cheap and cheerful? There’s plenty of fast food options and some beautiful old boozers serving the very best in Liverpool pub grub, too.
Liverpool is one of England’s most cosmopolitan cities and was the 2008 European capital of culture. Whether you’re passing through, looking for heritage, pop culture and entertainment, checking out the universities, or planning a weekend break, there are plenty of reasons to book a hotel room in Liverpool. And with quaint fishing villages and market towns on its doorstep, there's so much to see and do in the surrounding area of Merseyside.