In previous blog posts I described how I went about creating my newest print – a map of London’s West End theatres. See Part One and Part Two. My first trial of the West End Theatre map layout with dummy theatre images in place showed me that a bit of tweaking of the street plan, including a slight twist, would give me more space for the theatre images.

Outline of the
Ambassador’s Theatre

The main job, however, was creating nearly 50 theatre portraits (about half completely from scratch).

New theatre sketches

The Duchess Theatre for the new map

The London theatre portraits needed to work at scale – not too intricate and with some kind of cohesive style and colour scheme. I did find it a bit tricky to work down to the small size. Hopefully I will get better at this with future maps.

I drew the theatres in pencil, using photo reference and Street View (and in some cases, earlier sketches), and then outlined them in pen and brush pen. I then scanned these outlines and added digital colour in Photoshop from a limited palette.

For some theatres, I added colourful little posters, and for others I added more detailed posters of a particular show associated with that theatre.

Favourite shows put in a cameo appearance

You can just about see that the Prince Edward Theatre is showing Evita. The theatre was the venue for the world première of this Lloyd Webber and Rice musical in 1978. I’ve included it because it was the first West End show I ever saw.

I was on a school biology trip to London and our teacher had decided to include a West End show in the itinerary. We were stuck behind pillars and many boys went AWOL in Soho or the Spice of Life pub and had to be rounded up – but this great show is probably responsible for me spending so many years of my life working Front of House or in Box Office in the West End. I loved it!

I also put An Inspector Calls back on at the Garrick Theatre, as I remember that play running there for many years. I saw it several times, and a great production of J B Priestley’s spine tingling drama it was. It will probably never to be bettered, though I do remember enjoying an earlier version of the play at the long lost Westminster Theatre, starring a suitably unearthly Tom Baker as the mysterious Inspector Goole. (The Westminster closed and then caught fire, as unwanted theatres often seem to do. It was demolished and replaced by flats AND another theatre – currently known as The Other Palace).

The Garrick Theatre with one of its most
successful productions – An Inspector Calls

More favourites …

You can’t really see it, but the play Art is showing at Wyndham’s Theatre on my map. It was one of the most successful shows they had there – running for five years – and was a dream vehicle for celebrity casting of the three leads.

I’ve also put The Ladykillers, adapted by Graham Linehan from the film, on at the Gielgud Theatre, if you look very closely. I saw the play there and loved it – such fun – and a brilliant cast including Peter Capaldi, Ben Miller, Clive Rowe and James Fleet.

The Duchess Theatre has The Play That Goes Wrong. Mischief Theatre’s productions have brought a lot of harmless fun to the West End and their shows have been very successful. The St Martin’s Theatre has The Mousetrap, of course. And the Ambassador’s Theatre, next door, has Stomp, which played there for a long time and was a really useful show for foreign teachers to bring their exchange trip pupils to.

If you use a magnifying glass, it might be possible to see that the Prince of Wales Theatre is showing the Book of Mormon musical. At the time of writing, this is the venue’s current show and now its greatest success, having overtaken Mamma Mia! in longevity here.

The Gillian Lynne Theatre used to be known as the New London Theatre when I first came to London. I knew it originally as the home of musical Cats. However, I didn’t want too many really old productions on the map, particularly as I have never seen Cats. Instead War Horse is showing there on the illustration – another successful run for the theatre.

Finally, I would have loved to have the Duke of York’s Theatre showing Ink, a play and production I loved, but its billboard is just too small!

Putting it all together

After putting the theatres in position and squeezing all their names in, using Indesign, it was time to look at the overall image. What final touches would make it a pleasing work of art? (Hopefully).

War Horse at the Gillian Lynne

First of all, I decided to try changing the background colour. I needed a quiet, fairly pale colour so that the small typeface would show up against it. I tried a grey-turquoise colour, and this became the final background colour.

When I worked on my previous map – my first ever map, in fact – the Stargazer’s Guide to Britain and Ireland, I discovered that little incidental bits and bobs are needed on a decorative map to tie it all together. For me, this basically means trees. So trees of various colours from the same limited palette were dotted about, especially around the parks. I put one in front of the Playhouse Theatre (which has a memorable London plane right in front of it in real life). It would have been good to have put some trees in front of the Garrick Theatre, to reflect real life as well – but there wasn’t room!

I also added a couple of tiny black cabs and two route master buses, as well as the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus and a tourist cruiser on the river.

The final result

And here’s the final result. I hope people like it! And here’s the link to the shop.

The sequel …

I followed up with a portrait version of the West End Theatre Map. People often prefer that shape for their walls, but it isn’t the obvious shape to fit London’s theatreland. I toyed with doing the map at a different angle to north – but it would just have looked too wierd. I had to draw the street layout again from scratch, but at least I already had all the theatres and street trees, so it was a bit quicker this time. However, it is a different image, not just the same one cropped differently. I had to move the theatres about cunningly to try to get as many of them as possible into a narrower format.

At some point, I would like to do a version of the original map – but at night, with all the theatres bright with their lights.