Designed as the London home of the RSC, the Barbican Theatre has hosted a wide range of our shows.

Opened in 1982 as part of the Barbican Centre arts complex, the theatre has more than 1,000 seats and sits amongst a number of other facilities at the Barbican Centre, including a library, art gallery and food outlets.

The Barbican Centre is open seven days a week and is free to visit. Most recently, the Barbican played host to our 2019 productions of As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure. 

The exterior of the Barbican Theatre in London.
The Barbican.
Photo by Helen Maybanks © RSC Browse and license our images

The history of the Barbican

Plans for the brutalist building began in 1960 when the RSC joined forces with the London Symphony Orchestra to create a contemporary space for theatre and performance. The final designs were agreed in 1968, but it took from 1970 to 1982 for the build — which included creating over 2,000 flats and realigning an Underground line — to be completed by the architecture firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. The Barbican complex was given Grade II listed status in 2001.

Named after the Barbican area in which it stands, the Centre was built on the former site of Cripplegate, one of the gates in the London Wall, which was heavily bombed during the Second World War. It is also believed that Shakespeare himself lived in this area for a time, in a house on the corner of Monkwell and Silver Street.

The first RSC shows in the new theatre were Trevor Nunn's Henry IV Parts I and II, with Patrick Stewart in the title role and a supporting cast that included Timothy Dalton and Harriet Walter. Since then, the Barbican has run a variety of RSC productions, from Shakespeare to contemporary theatre, with many shows premiering at the venue. They include Les Miserables (RSC/Cameron Mackintosh production) which opened at the Barbican in September 1985.

The complex also contains the Pit, a smaller 164-seat studio theatre, which has hosted a range of our shows, including King John (2001) with Guy Henry in the titular role and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1986) featuring Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson and Lesley Manville.