Stunning behind-the-scenes look at the theatres of London's West End

It has been a torrid year for theatres in London's West End and further afield, having been mostly shut since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And these photographs will remind audiences what they have been missing, providing a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage - from elegant dressing rooms to the congested orchestra pit.

They feature in a new version of the book 'London Theatres' by Michael Coveney and Peter Dazeley which goes inside the likes of the Playhouse, London Palladium, Lyceum, Drury Lane, Garrick, Aldwych and Palace Theatre.

It looks at the history of the Palace, which features a pump used to keep the water level of the buried River Fleet below the building, and Drury Lane which still has the 1947 painted backdrops to Oklahoma! stored backstage. 

Other interesting features include the 'thunder run' which created sound effects using cannon balls at Her Majesty's Theatre, and a backstage 'donkey run' at the Palladium for live animals which leads onto the street.

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The book also points out that theatres have suffered from epidemic-related closures in the past, including twice during William Shakespeare's lifetime - in 1592 for two years and in 1603 - because of plague outbreaks. 

Some West End theatres opened at the end of the second lockdown in early December, only to be forced to close days later due London moving into Tier 3 - with A Christmas Carol ending 24 hours after its press night.

Pantomimes across the country were also cancelled last month, with many venues now facing financial disaster even though some switched to online performances in a desperate attempt to make some income. 

In a forward for the book, British star of stage and screen Mark Rylance, 60, writes: 'The old theatres remind me that unless used carefully, technology can divide the room and remove the actor to another place. 

'Impressive and powerful as that may be, the greatest moments for me, as actor or audience, have been when actor and audience have become one. That is what I go to experience in all these wonderful theatres.' 

And author Mr Dazeley added: 'The weird thing about theatres is that we buy our ticket, sit down, look forward in the dark to be entertained. We never see the of our wonderful theatres and their heritage. They have something in the atmosphere of all the performances over the years, that's in the fabric of the buildings.' 

Palace Theatre: The theatre at Cambridge Circus which is staging Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was opened as the Royal English Opera House in 1891. Nearly a century later in 1983 it was bought by Andrew Lloyd Webber's group for £1.3million. The stage has wooden machinery underneath, and a pump used to keep the water level of the buried River Fleet below the theatre

Palace Theatre: The theatre at Cambridge Circus which is staging and the Cursed Child was opened as the Royal English Opera House in 1891. Nearly a century later in 1983 it was bought by Andrew Lloyd Webber's group for £1.3million. The stage has wooden machinery underneath, and a pump used to keep the water level of the buried River Fleet below the theatre

Her Majesty's Theatre: The prompter's desk is pictured at what was The Phantom of the Opera's home for 30 years, in the fourth theatre on the site which was once a cattle market. At one stage it was the second largest opera house in Europe, after La Scala in Milan. Architectural features include its French Renaissance style, four Corinthian pillars and plaster busts

Her Majesty's Theatre: The prompter's desk is pictured at what was The Phantom of the Opera's home for 30 years, in the fourth theatre on the site which was once a cattle market. At one stage it was

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