School site-specific production for 2015 National Youth Theatre season

The National Youth Theatre presents Homegrown created Nadia Latif  and Omar El Khairy Photo by Helen Maybanks.jpg

Homegrown, a site-specific production set in a school in Bethnal Green, forms part of the NYT’s new season (Credit: Helen Maybanks)

A brand new play inspired by news earlier this year of three Bethnal Green schoolgirls’ journey to Syria to join militant group Isis will feature among the National Youth Theatre’s new season. Homegrown, created by director Nadia Latif and writer Omar El-Khairy, explores the implications of radicalism and extremism on people and communities behind the headlines. The site-specific production, featuring a huge cast of 113, will be performed at Raines Foundation Upper School in Bethnal Green in August.

NYT returns to the Ambassadors Theatre this autumn for its third West End rep season featuring a company of sixteen 18-25 year olds. The season is set to include: an adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights from Stephanie Street; a production of Tom Stoppard’s abridged version of The Merchant of Venice for schools; and new play Consensual, exploring teenage hormones, teacher-student relationships and the UK’s age of consent, written by Evan Placey – the playwright behind Girls Like That and Pronoun. Placey’s new play will be the focus of a Sky Arts documentary this summer, which will follow cast and crew as they develop Consensual.

The National Youth Theatre presents Consensual by Evan Placey at the Ambassadors Theatre Photo by Helen Maybanks.jpg

Evan Placey’s Consensual will feature in the NYT’s West End rep season and will also be the focus of a Sky Arts documentary this summer (Credit: Helen Maybanks)

At the launch of the new season, NYT’s artistic director Paul Roseby said: ‘This season will celebrate the diversity, vibrancy and talent of Britain’s youth, with fearless new voices. Much has been said about the current challenges young people from disadvantaged and “diverse” backgrounds face trying to access our industry. We are the only company in the UK putting brave young talent on the West End stage in front of large audiences in a season of this scale.

‘I call on those concerned about access to do something about it by supporting the National Youth Theatre’s free opportunities. They are accessible to all, empower talented young people to learn on stage in front of an audience and lead to professional employment in the creative industries.’

Homegrown will run at Raines Foundation Upper School, Bethnal Green from 12–27 August; NYT’s West End rep season at the Ambassadors Theatre runs from 18 September to 4 December. For more information on these productions and others among the NYT 2015 season, visit www.nyt.org.uk.

Specially priced performance of The Scottsboro Boys for low-income families

Mousetrap Theatre Projects and West End producer Paula Marie Black organised a family performance on 5 November of The Scottsboro Boys at the Garrick Theatre, London.

ScottsboroBoys 12

The Scottsboro Boys runs at The Garrick Theatre, London (Credit: Johan Persson)

Those invited to attend were families who have previously taken part in Mousetrap’s Family First Nights (FFN) programme. FFN, which has been running for the last 17 years, runs a five-week summer programme where low-income families (identified by organisations such as social service agencies, housing associations, charities and community projects) can choose from 30 theatre productions in London and the West End with the support of Mousetrap. FFN participants are then invited to theatre, opera and dance events throughout the year.

The performance of The Scottsboro Boys had specially priced tickets, with children’s at £2.50–£5 and adults at £5–£10. The event sold out with 180 families in attendance. The performance time was moved to an earlier slot to 7.15pm to accommodate the needs of those with young children.

Susan Whiddington, director of Mousetrap Theatre Projects, said, ‘We are delighted to invite our families to this spectacular and very moving musical and are incredibly grateful to the generosity of Paula Marie Black for making it possible. We believe the electricity and the energy of this family audience will be inspirational to the actors and everyone involved in the production.’

The Tiger Who Came to Tea – Performance review

by Rachel Creaser
Star rating
****
A perfect first theatre visit.

Tea time with the tiger (Credit: Alastair Muir)

Tea time with the tiger (Credit: Alastair Muir)

David Wood’s stage adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic children’s book is visiting the West End this summer. In 2012, the show was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family.

The production, for children aged three upwards, has been carefully crafted to help make the young audience’s journey through the story as interesting and stimulating as possible.

Many theatrical conventions and devices are introduced in the play: the show opens with the cheerful ‘Hi, Hello’ song, where the actors welcome the audience to the performance and thank them for coming along. They then explain that they are here to tell a story, which will be about a girl called Sophie and her mother – it is at this point when they begin to adopt the role of their character in front of the audience. The gesture and characterisation throughout the performance is strong, providing an interesting and animated visual picture. The passing of time on this day where the story takes place is marked by clearly and is a recurring motif with a sing-song ‘tick, tock, tick, tock’.

While the narrative of the play is quite simple – a small girl’s unremarkable day at home with her mother, interspersed with visits from the postman and the milkman, is turned upside down by a visit from a well-mannered and very hungry tiger – it very clearly functions as a well-structured piece of theatre, with considered lyrics, movements, mimes, characterisations, costumes and everything else in between.

(Credit: Jane Hobson)

(Credit: Jane Hobson)

The story is brought to life by the characters, but the set, costumes and props work as fantastic accompaniments, looking as if they have come from the pen of an illustrator.

Among the use of common theatrical devices (mime, movement etc), the show also offers perhaps the most exciting theatrical element of all – magic. Food suddenly disappearing from plates, a bag which was empty becoming full without an obvious slight of hand – these are moments that children will remember and treasure as they recall their first theatre experiences.

This is a warm, friendly and fun show which is perfectly pitched for its age range. The Tiger Who Came to Tea would be a great introduction to some of the conventions of theatre, as well as its most important quality – its magic.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea runs at the Lyric Theatre at Shaftesbury Avenue in London until 7 September 2014. The show will also have a Christmas season at Birmingham Town Hall this December. For more information, visit www.thetigerwhocametotealive.com.

New Year Honours for British actresses

Dame Angela Lansbury: the actress is recognised in 2014's New Year Honours (Credit: Featureflash)

Dame Angela Lansbury: the actress is recognised in 2014’s New Year Honours (Credit: Featureflash)

The Queen’s 2014 New Year Honours list has recognised and celebrated some of the country’s leading acting and theatre talent: theatre, film and television actress Angela Lansbury is to become a Dame of the British Empire for her services to drama, charitable work and philanthropy. Bafta and Olivier Award winner Penelope Keith will receive the same honour for her services to the arts and charity, as will choreographer Gillian Lynne, director of more than 50 shows in the West End, on Broadway and on tour, for her services to dance and musical theatre.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, a collaborator of Gillian Lynne’s on productions such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera, said that he was ‘thrilled that the grand lady of British musical theatre has got the recognition she deserves.’

Accolades for women in the arts continues: Canadian-born stage and television actress Lynda Bellingham is to be awarded an OBE for voluntary service to charitable giving in the UK. Actress and writer of Gavin and Stacey, Ruth Jones, will receive an MBE.

There were also a few notable male honours in this year’s selection, including CBEs for television actor Michael Crawford and former Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke, as well as a knighthood for Michael Codron, the owner of London’s Aldwych Theatre, for his services to theatre.

Free West End performances in Trafalgar Square from West End LIVE

West End LIVE, a free annual event, returns in June with performances of leading theatre productions in the West End performed live in Trafalgar Square. In 2012, the West End LIVE weekend saw over 500,000 visitors attend. The two-day festival is run by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), Westminster City Council and Mastercard.

Performances at this year’s event will include a mix of West End favourites and newcomers, including Billy Elliot the Musical, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Matilda The Musical, The Sound Of Music, Top Hat, The Bodyguard, A Chorus Line, Once: A New Musical and many more.

West End LIVE, now in its ninth year, was proposed by deputy leader of Westminster City Council Robert Davis to support and rejuvenate the West End, and to showcase the entertainment available in the area. Of the visitors to last year’s event, 85% said that it would be likely that they would attend a West End show having seen the performances as part of West End LIVE.

Councillor Robert Davis said of this year’s event: ‘This will be the largest West End LIVE we have ever produced with more shows taking part than ever before. From humble beginnings in Leicester Square nine years ago, our event now attracts hundreds of thousands of people. We cannot wait to get the weekend started and showcase exactly what the West End of London has to offer – the best art, musicals and theatre in the world.’

West End LIVE takes place on 22-23 June 2013, for more information visit www.westendlive.co.uk.

New theatre to be built in heart of West End

Westminster City Council has approved plans for a new theatre to be built in central London. The yet- to-be-named venue will be the first new theatre to join the West End in 30 years.

The project is being undertaken by Nimax Theatres, owners of the Apollo, Duchess, Garrick, Lyric and Vaudeville Theatres. Nimax have also recently acquired Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Palace Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Chief executive of Nimax, Nica Burns, told the Finical Times about her excitement for the project: ‘I’m delighted that this beautiful theatre has gone on to the next stage of its development. It will add greatly to the potential of London theatre making. I didn’t want it to compete with other theatres. I wanted it to offer a different space for London in a fabulous location for actors and directors.’

The new state-of-the-art theatre venue will be constructed on top of Tottenham Court Road Station, which is currently undergoing redevelopment. Work on the theatre is expected to begin in 2017.

Plans for the interior of the building have also been revealed. The theatre’s design will allow for a variation of performance spaces to be created. There will be facilities for productions to perform in the round and in a horseshoe configuration. The theatre is expected to accommodate up to 500 visitors.

The Stage reveals high theatre prices

An investigation by The Stage has revealed the high cost of visiting popular shows in the West End. The theatre industry newspaper uncovered some of the rather hefty charges incurred when attending theatre in the capital.

Buying tickets online is costing theatre-goers up to £12.25, just in booking fees. But the charges are not consistent across the board, The Stage found that for shows such as Chicago and War Horse there was no fee, however, shows toward the top end of the booking charge scale, at £12+ included; We Will Rock You, Wicked and Top Hat.  

The charges were found to vary between the tiers of tickets for sale. When purchasing a top-price ticket, customers are charged a fee of £8.25, however, for cheaper seats, costing just £34, the booking charge drops to £5.50.

On top of this initial fee, there is a further £4 charge, which goes towards the delivery costs of posting or emailing tickets to customers.  However, this charge is only applicable to UK residents, for which collection at the theatre is not permitted.

A spokesman for Which? told The Stage: ‘About 50,000 people supported our campaign to see these ‘rip-off’ charges stamped out so the government must stick to its commitment and ensure the ban happens by December.’

The Stage has also uncovered the most expensive tickets on sale in the West End. On average a top price ticket costs £72.12 and the average cost for the least expensive seats is £21.91 – inclusive of booking charges.

Their investigation found that Billy Elliot was the most expensive musical, charging £97.50 for a top-tier ticket. The Ladykillers was named as the most expensive play to attend, charging customers £97 for buying a top price ticket.

But for a country still cost-cutting after the recession, it was not all bad news – both War Horse and Les Miserables came out top for offering the cheapest seats for theatre-goers. Les Miserables has tickets starting from £12 and War Horse came out even cheaper, with prices from just £10.

Do high prices deter you from visiting the theatre? Do you think is justified for theatres to charge this much for tickets and booking fees? Do you think the high cost discourages young people from attending? Let us know what you think.

www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/35824/exclusive-west-end-audiences-face-booking
www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/35823/exclusive-top-priced-london-theatre-seats 

New fundraising campaign launched to bring full time repertory London

There are plans for a full-time repertory theatre to be set-up in London which would train and support actors allowing them to work in up to 10 productions each year.

The London Repertory Company is still in its very early stages, with estimates that the company will officially launch in 2014.  But already there are plans for a yearly schedule. If the project is to go ahead, each year the repertory theatre would produce a play by Shakespeare, a musical and for Christmas audiences a pantomime.

The person behind the project is British writer and director Michael Armstrong. The 67-year-old is ambitious about reviving theatre through creating London’s first repertory theatre in the heart of the West End. The project would aim to employ up to 40 actors each yearly season. Armstrong hopes that the project would incorporate the support and interest of local businesses.

No funding for the project will be coming from the government; instead the theatre will be supported   solely by donations from private sources and corporate partnerships. Campaign ‘Raise the curtain’ is set to kick-start funding for the project.

Those who make donations to The London Repertory Company will be given discounts with sponsor businesses of the company and will become a founding supporter of the theatre.

For more information visit http://www.londonrepertorycompany.com