Ben Whishaw, Simon Russell Beale, Rory Kinnear and David Morrissey are among stars lined up for the first productions at the new Bridge Theatre opening in London in October.
For the new venue by Tower Bridge, London Theatre Company (LTC) founders Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr have secured new plays by leading playwrights including Lucinda Coxon, Lucy Prebble, Sam Holcroft and Nina Raine.
The theatre will open with a new comedy by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, Young Marx, directed by Hytner, with Kinnear in the title role plus Oliver Chris as Engels. Depicting a young Karl Marx in Soho in 1850, it reunites the creative team behind smash hit One Man, Two Guvnors. Design will be by Mark Thompson, music by Grant Olding, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Arditti. With previews from October 18, it will open October 26 and run to December 31.
In line with the theatre’s policy of championing new writing with the occasional classic, the second production will be Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, staged in promenade by Hytner, with Whishaw as Brutus and Michelle Fairley in the gender-switched role of Cassius plus David Calder as Caesar and Morrissey as Mark Antony.
With seating wrapped around the action, there will also be 250 promenading tickets at £25 available in advance for each performance. The production designer is Bunny Christie, with costumes by Christina Cunningham, music by Nick Powell, lighting by Bruno Poet and sound by Paul Arditti. The run is from January 20, opening January 30, until April 15 2018.
Bridge Theatre will present a new play, Nightfall, by rising playwright and novelist Barney Norris, directed by Laurie Sansom. It tells the story of Ryan who is struggling to make a living on a farm just outside Winchester and his sister Lou who has returned home after the death of their father to support Jenny, their formidable mother. When Lou’s boyfriend Pete reappears, Jenny fights to hold her children to the life she planned for them. The run is from April 28, opening on May 8, until June 3 2018.
For summer next year, productions will include Alys, Always, a new play by Lucinda Coxon based on the novel by Harriet Lane. Directed by Hytner, it is an unsettling story of concealed ambition preying on the self-regard of London’s literary élite.
Flatpack is a new dark comedy by John Hodge, screenwriter of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave – his first play since Collaborators at the National Theatre.
Russell Beale will play JS Bach in a new play, as yet untitled, about the composer by Raine whose previous plays include Tribes and Consent which opened at the National Theatre this month.
The Black Cloud is a new play by Sam Holcroft, adapted from the 1957 novel by Fred Hoyle, described by scientist Richard Dawkins as “one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written”.
Carmen Havana will be a new version of Bizet’s opera, Carmen, by Lucy Prebble, whose previous hits include Enron. Directed by Hytner and with choreography by Miguel Altunaga, it will locate the famous story of liberation, desire and death in 1950s Cuba.
LTC was founded by Hytner and Starr on leaving the National Theatre after 12 years. It will present four or five new productions year-round, playing Tuesday to Sunday, plus a Monday-night programme which will include intimate gigs, the live recording of a new podcast series and conversations on food, fashion, politics and science.
Backed by a small group of senior venture capital investors, LTC’s raison d’être is to create a culture, ethos and economic model that supports writers, directors, designers and actors to work at scale in a space that is complementary to those of the subsidised theatre and West End. In time LTC hopes to open more theatres in London, to be able to host productions from the subsidised theatre, and to transfer its own productions to the West End and beyond.
Hytner said: “We want to make bold popular theatre. We’ve commissioned ambitious plays that reach out to embrace the audience, and we’ve built an environment for them that is exciting, welcoming and flexible: a theatre that can be changed to suit the show. We reckon that London needs new theatres, designed for the shows that people make in the 21st century and the expectations that audiences have for a really good night out.”
LTC commissioned the new theatre from architect Steve Tompkins who, with colleague Roger Watts at Haworth Tompkins, have designed a 900-seat adaptable auditorium that can respond to shows with different formats, including end-stage, thrust-stage and promenade – each of which will be used in the opening three productions. Built at the foot of Tower Bridge next to City Hall, it is about 10 minutes’ walk from London Bridge station.
Starr said: “After the National Theatre, it was time for something new and scary. London is a brilliant city for making and seeing theatre, evidenced by the 25% increase in audiences over the last 15 years. We think there’s room for a new independent on the scene, driven by both a mission and a bottom line. We hope that will resonate with artists and audiences, and are hugely looking forward to welcoming them to The Bridge.”