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. In October 2019 we return to the Barbican with three Shakespeare plays: As You Like ItThe Taming of the Shrew and Measure for MeasureWe will also host onstage events, debates and an education conference for teachers, and will run our first ever chilled performance at the Barbican.

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.

What's on at the Barbican

As You Like It

As You Like It

26 October 2019 - 18 January 2020

Barbican Theatre

Come into the forest; dare to change your state of mind…
Director Kimberley Sykes (Dido, Queen of Carthage) directs a riotous, exhilarating version of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy.

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Defend the right to offend – Barbican debates

Defend the right to offend – Barbican debates

23 November 2019

Barbican Theatre

Measure For Measure

Measure For Measure

12 November 2019 - 16 January 2020

Barbican Theatre

Shakespeare wrote this play in the early 1600s, yet it remains astonishingly resonant today. Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, directs this new production.

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Only the fool speaks the truth – Barbican debates

Only the fool speaks the truth – Barbican debates

9 November 2019

Barbican Theatre

To what extent can comedy effect real change? Join our panel of artists, activists and experts as they delve into this question.

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The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew

5 November 2019 - 18 January 2020

Barbican Theatre

We turn Shakespeare’s fierce, energetic comedy of gender and materialism on its head to offer a fresh perspective on its portrayal of hierarchy and power, directed by Justin Audibert.

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Towards a Creative Curriculum: A Conference for Teachers

Towards a Creative Curriculum: A Conference for Teachers

10 January 2020

Barbican Theatre

Towards a Creative Curriculum is a new conference from RSC Education and Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning aimed at teachers from early years to Key Stage 3. Focusing on how arts and cultural learning support the new Ofsted framework, the conference will offer inspiring CPD opportunities for teachers who want to develop and extend their knowledge and understanding of arts-based learning in the classroom.

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