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, In 2012 the Royal Court Liverpool Trust invested £1.2m on the auditorium, replacing every seat and renovating the stalls bar area. In 2015 a further £2.8m is being spent on front of house areas, replacing circle toilets and bars, a new Box Office and foyer extension and a lift to all floors.In 2012 the Royal Court Liverpool Trust invested £1.2m on the auditorium, replacing every seat and renovating the stalls bar area. In 2015 a further £2.8m is being spent on front of house areas, replacing circle toilets and bars, a new Box Office and foyer extension and a lift to all floors.In 2012 the Royal Court Liverpool Trust invested £1.2m on the auditorium, replacing every seat and renovating the stalls bar area. In 2015 a further £2.8m is being spent on front of house areas, replacing circle toilets and bars, a new Box Office and foyer extension and a lift to all floors.In 2012 the Royal Court Liverpool Trust invested £1.2m on the auditorium, replacing every seat and renovating the stalls bar area. In 2015 a further £2.8m is being spent on front of house areas, replacing circle toilets and bars, a new Box Office and foyer extension and a lift to all floors.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 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.
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.
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.
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. And if you book a room at a city centre Premier Inn, you’ll really be able to savour your visit, getting each day of your stay off to the best possible start.
With pre-show dining at the theatre plus a raft of eating options just outside, you won’t have to let any hunger pains spoil your enjoyment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Liverpool is one of England’s most cosmopolitan cities; it was even the 2008 European capital of culture. Whether you’re passing through, looking for heritage, culture and live 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 really so much to see and do in the surrounding area of Merseyside.
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