Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr – aka ‘the two Nicks’ who ran the National Theatre for a successful decade – have just announced the first season for their brand new theatre. The Bridge Theatre is a flexible 900-seat auditorium that constitutes the first ‘proper’ West End theatre (okay, it’s not in the West End, but whatever) to be built in London in 80 years. Located on the Tower Bridge riverside next to City Hall, it’s unsubsidised but the programming has distinct shades of the National to it – tickets start at £15 (for under-26s) and are capped at £65, which is pricey but comparable to the NT’s top prices.
More to the point, it’s got the sort of new play-heavy season most West End producers wouldn’t have the nads for: of the eight plays initially announced, seven are premieres.
The season kicks off in October with ‘Young Marx’ (Oct 18-Dec 31), a new comedy about the youthful escapades of Karl Marx written by Richard Bean and starring Rory Kinnear. The sole revival in the season comes at the start of 2018 with Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ (Jan 20-Apr 15) – Hytner will direct a cast of David Calder, Michelle Fairley, David Morrissey and Ben Whishaw in a modern dress, promenade production. The bookable portion of the season – which goes on sale April 27 – concludes with a new play by rising star Barney Norris, ‘Nightfall’ (Apr 28 2018-Jun 3). Promised after that are new plays from Sam Holcroft, Nina Raine, Lucinda Coxon, John Hodge and the mighty Lucy Prebble (of ‘Enron’ and ‘The Effect’ fame).
All in all it looks like a pretty significant change to the London theatre landscape, a major new writing venue that to some extent looks like a competitor to Hytner’s old gaff (though realistically there’s not much of a clash between the four-ish plays a year that look to be programmed here and the much busier, more leftfield programme at Rufus Norris’s National). If this was the NT you’d probably ask hard questions about the lack of BAME talent on display – indeed, they’re still worth asking – but this is pretty groundbreaking for a commercial theatre: hopefully they’ll make a success of it. NT Live broadcasts for ‘Young Marx’ and ‘Julius Caesar’ are scheduled.
Public booking for ‘Young Marx’, ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Nightfall’ opens April 27.
In other news, ‘Trump – The Panto!’ is coming to London.