Address: C/ Corredera Baja de San Pablo, 15
Metro: Callao (L3 and L5)
Teatro Lara is one historic place. Known in its day as the Bombonera de San Pablo, and in the Malasaña district, it was constructed in 1879 and it is here that some of the greatest Spanish plays were first performed, inclusing Los intereses creados, Canción de cuna and El amor brujo. Be honest, you’ve never heard of any of them, have you?
The economic downturn of the 1980s, coupled with the general decline in interest in theatre, led to the place being closed down, only for Luis Ramirez to re-inaugurate it in 1994, concentrating especially on American-style musicals, while also offering the venue for use as a concert hall. These are usually of the jazz and flamenco variety, but not always.
It’s had a funny old history has the Lara. It has enjoyed glorious times in the past, while in others it has been as good as abandoned, and going into it today still feels a bit like travelling back in time. It might be one of Madrid’s more forgotten venues, but it reeks of history, and whoever you’re going to see there, you’ll be glad they chose this place – and the restaurant-bar attached to it is also very highly recommended. With its leather seats, tiered levels and wooden acoustics, after playing there recently Ólafur Arnalds was dumbstruck that it’s not used more often. “If we had something like this in Iceland, there would be concerts in it every day” he said.
There’s no metro exactly on the doorstep of the Lara, but your closest bet is Callao. Heading east down Gran Via from there, you’ll see the Calle Corredora de San Pablo on the left, and basically it’s straight up that street to get to the theatre. Thing is, you’ll need to keep an eye on the street-names, because it’s not the most predictable of roads, and once or twice you might be left wondering where the hell it’s gone. Be particularly careful not to go trotting off up Calle de la Luna. That’s the wrong way.
When you finally get to the Lara, you’ll be staggered that what just looks like a normal building, and one you could quite easily have missed in an innocuous side street is actually the home to a vintage theatre hall. It’s a bit like going into the Tardis, or walking into Narnia or the Harry Potter universe – you’ll wonder how on earth such an amazing venue was hiding in such an unlikely location.