I'd only just recovered from the excitement of the new season at The Royal Court when ex Donmar Warehouse artistic director Michael Grandage went and announced his new company which looks like it could revolutionise the London theatre scene.
There was always a question as to what Michael Grandage might do next after his 10 year stint of creating theatrical hit after hit at the Donmar, and I for one, couldn't be more delighted with this announcement. Along with Donmar colleague James Bierman they have lined up a season of five plays which will take up residency at the Noel Coward Theatre from December 2012 to February 2014. There is a wonderful mix of productions, something new, a couple by the Bard, something hilarious, something dark all complete with some of the starriest star casting around and although lacking in a musical it has got theatre goers moist with anticipation.
Over 14 months Grandage will direct the likes of Judi Dench, Jude Law and Daniel Radcliffe in productions which are set to bring a whole new audience into the theatre and for this I can't praise him enough. There is nothing like the theatre, no medium is as exciting, fearless and provocative, yet it lives and dies by audiences. By offering 100,000 tickets (that's 200 per show) at £10 Grandage is opening the doors to the theatre to everyone and anyone, and not just in the cheap seats. Spreading them throughout the venue you'll be able to sit in the back row of the stalls, the back of the royal circle (my personal pick), along the sides in the grand circle and the whole of the balcony. There will also be a free performance of each play for schools and colleges froacross London and a full time education programme to introduce young people to the theatre. This pricing structure is a revolution in making theatre available for all.
But what of the plays? Opening the season in December 2012 will be Privates On Parade starring Simon Russell Beale as the cross-dressing Captain Dennis in Peter Nichols award winning comedy set against the murderous backdrop of the Malaysian campaign at the end of the Second World War. Following that Judi Dench will play Alice alongside Ben Whishaw as Peter in John Logans first new play since the 6 Tony award winning Red. Peter and Alice will look at how the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. Then my favourite playwright, Martin McDonagh will have a London outing with The Cripple Of Inishmaan. McDonagh, the genius behind In Bruges in the cinema and the phenomenal Pillowman (which is surely deserving of a West End revivial) sets his play on a remote island of the coast of Ireland where a Hollywood film is being made in this dark but comic masterpiece. Boy wizard Daniel Radcliffe will take on the title role, in what for me already seems like the theatre event of 2013.
Any good season might end there but Grandage continues with A Midsummer Night's Dream from September 2013 starring David Walliams and Sheridan Smith as Bottom and Titania and then to wrap things up Grandage will, after the success of Hamlet and Anna Christie, once again work with Jude Law in a new production on Shakespeare's Henry V.
With all the productions are already on sale,I barely know what I'll be doing tomorrow, but this incredible inaugural season has me putting theatre visits in the diary well into 2014.
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