Brighton’s Music and Theatre Scene
By: Susan Ashby
Music and theatre lovers will never run out of fascinating events and performances in Brighton. Whether it’s jazz, blues, pop or rock, Brighton’s live music scene has it all covered. Meanwhile, Brighton’s theatres have received rave reviews for their musicals, dance shows, contemporary drama and experimental shows. Here’s an in-depth guide to some of the best venues for live entertainment in town.
The Brighton Centre on Kings Road is undoubtedly the premier venue for live musical entertainment. Its auditorium has seating for over 5,000 and regularly hosts some of the leading music acts in town and a number of rising bands. Among its most recent star performers were Shirley Bassey, Van Morrison and Michael Crawford. The Brighton Centre is also a popular venue for exhibitions and conferences, including occasional meetings of the Labour Party Conference.
Event II is the home of the hippest DJs in the city and a haven for dancing all night long. During those nights when it functions wholly as a nightclub, the music is usually mainstream, with strains of dance and R’n’B. On the other hand, when there’s a hot gig booked as part of the evening’s entertainment, expect the music to be hot and electric as many dance, R’n’B and indie acts perform here.
The Black Horse in the North Laine district hosts Brighton’s best local bands and crowd favourites. As such, the ambiance is very laid back and friendly, as befits a traditional local pub. Aside from the scheduled performances, there are many rousing jam sessions that drive the locals wild. On some nights, patrons even bring over their favourite records to play.
The Freebutt pub is another lively hangout for local bands, including both established and new bands, particularly those that play indie and punk music. There are some occasions when they stage a hip-hop night. The main area is spacious and features a pool table and some fruit machines, but the performance stage is about as small as an average size living room, which is just perfect for some interaction between audience and band.
Jazz Rooms is the venue for jazz lovers and is virtually a Brighton institution in its own right. Located at The Lanes part of town, Jazz Rooms features a tantalizing mix of live jazz performances and fine and funky recorded music. Meanwhile, if hot Latin music is more your cup of tea, the place to visit is Los Amigos at Church Road on Hove. Not only does it feature live salsa music all night long, there’s also plenty of fine Latin food and wine, cocktails and beer.
Theatre lovers have over a dozen venues to choose from in Brighton, which has developed a reputation as the top destination for theatre aficionados in the south coast. Drama may be the performance of choice, but there are also many theatres that show musicals and experimental works.
The Theatre Royal is certainly the most renowned theatre in Brighton, a grand old venue that often hosts major touring productions and musicals. Located on New Road, the theatre simply oozes class, with classic interiors dominated by mahogany and red velvet. It is a first-class venue for enjoying all kinds of theatre performances, from Shakespeare to pantomime.
The recently refurbished Brighton Dome Complex houses two excellent venues for theatre. The first is the elegant Pavilion Theatre, a 240-seat venue for music, drama and dance which also hosts several Brighton Festival events every year. The second is the Corn Exchange, a 1,000 seat venue that is used for theatre and live shows as well as for sports events and conferences. The Corn Exchange is the venue of the annual Jazz Bop, a contemporary jazz music festival staged every summer.
The Komedia in the North Laine area is also one of Brighton’s most popular theatres. It regularly stages drama, comedy and live music.
The New Venture Theatre on Bedford Places stages about 10 local plays a year and at least one national show. The theatre, which occupies an imposing Georgian building that once served as a school, is constantly searching for new talents to perform either in front of or behind the camera.
For a taste of the experimental, The Little Theatre on Clarence Gardens has received very good reviews. The theatre usually caters to the Brighton and Hove border community and its relatively small size makes performances more intimate and personal. The plays here are purely experimental and never mainstream.
The Sallis Benney Theatre is the showcase venue for theatre productions by the University of Brighton. It is a great venue to catch alternative touring plays and musical events. On occasion, the theatre also serves as a cinema for one-off films.
Another excellent venue for student productions is the Tower Theatre, where students from the City College Brighton often act out stage adaptations of literary masterpieces.
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