The UK's Best Theatre Companies










Colourful shows from the West Country to London’s West End

From humble beginnings, some of the UK’s most prestigious theatre companies have grown to become respected and lauded on a worldwide scale. Here’s our pick of the ones we like to keep a close eye on for exciting productions.

To book tickets for any of these current or upcoming productions, contact our Theatre team.

National Theatre

It’s hard to imagine that the National Theatre might never have existed – campaigning for its establishment began in 1847 but did not come to fruition until 1963, when it first set up home at the Old Vic, with Sir Laurence Olivier as artistic director.

Since then it has been guided by the likes of Sir Richard Eyre and Sir Trevor Nunn. Two of the National’s greatest recent successes have been the hilarious One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden and the moving tale of War Horse.

Current artistic director, Rufus Norris, is keeping with the theatre’s tradition of tapping into classics while also championing newer writing. The remainder of this year plays out with a four-piece Young Chekhov season which begins in July, along with a revival of Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, new musical A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer and a modern re-telling of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.


Established in 1980 by a group with no formal acting training, this Cornwall-based company has gone on to become one of Britain’s most popular production houses. Staying true to its roots, all of its shows start life being fleshed out in the National Trust barns near Mevagissey on the Cornish coast.

Recent years have seen the team take shows to London’s West End, New Zealand and Broadway, and they remain at the forefront of UK theatre. We can’t wait to see their productions of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, both of which form part of Emma Rice’s (formerly artistic director for Kneehigh) inaugural season at Shakespeare’s Globe, before they head off on a UK tour.

Royal Shakespeare Company

With a residence in Stratford-upon-Avon, a few minutes’ walk from the Bard’s home, the RSC received its royal charter in 1961 and has welcomed some of the finest actors to its ranks, including Sir Patrick Stewart, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi.

Although Shakespeare’s oeuvre continues to be at the company’s core – Cymbeline, Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream all feature this summer – it does not shy away from work by living writers. Its 1985 production of Les Misérables, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn, received unprecedented praise and went on to transfer to the West End; while more recently, it produced the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, with songs by comedian Tim Minchin.

Both musicals are still running in London and will be joined later in the year by six productions, including King Lear, The Alchemist and Much Ado About Nothing.

The Jamie Lloyd Company

Having been artistic director for the Donmar Warehouse from 2008 to 2011, director Jamie Lloyd quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. He has worked for the National Theatre and the Old Vic, as well as directing two successful West End musicals – The Commitments and Urinetown.

In 2013 he began the Trafalgar Transformed series at the Trafalgar Studios, offering the chance to see big names in one of London’s smallest spaces. Ever-keen to draw a new, younger set to the theatre, his choice of cast and texts ensured the likes of Martin Freeman, James McAvoy and Simon Russell Beale played to a full house every night.

Most recently the company has been represented in the West End by Jean Genet’s The Maids; followed by Doctor Faustus starring Kit Harington (Game of Thrones). We can’t wait to see what this exciting company does next.

McOnie Company

Choreographers are very rarely well-known, but Drew McOnie has broken the mould thanks to his striking productions, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights now playing at King’s Cross Theatre for which he won an Olivier Award.

The lead-up to this included work on the Leicester Curve’s production of Chicago, the UK tours of Hairspray and Oklahoma, plus Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith, which is returning this summer following huge popularity in 2015.

As an associate artist at London’s Old Vic, McOnie’s company recently completed a short run at the venue of its dance-based adaption of Jekyll and Hyde and will return at Christmas for Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.

Elsewhere, you can witness the work of this supremely talented director and choreographer at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (Jesus Christ Superstar) and from November at the West Yorkshire Playhouse for the UK premiere of Strictly Ballroom.

Pictured: The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk – Marc Antolin as Marc Chagall and Audrey Brisson as Bella Chagall – photo © Steve Tanner