October 21 2021
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Black British Theatre Awards nominations
Michael Balogun (above) has been nominated for best actor at the Black British Theatre Awards for Death of England: Delroy at the National Theatre. Celebrating the achievements of black performers and creatives in the UK theatre industry, the ceremony takes place on November 21 at Old Finsbury Town Hall in London. Other nominees include performers Marisha Wallace and Tyrone Huntley, and directors Miranda Cromwell and Tinuke Craig.
Campaigners battle to save Theatreland pub
Campaigners are fighting to save a West End pub they fear will be lost following a planned renovation. The Nell of Old Drury in Covent Garden has been at the heart of Theatreland since the 1700s, and – as well as featuring memorabilia from shows – has provided a space to host comedy and fringe nights, as well as quiz nights and play readings. However, there are fears the pub will be stripped of its theatrical heritage before its expected reopening later this year,.
Joel Marvin, who has worked in the pub as well as being a customer for the past 16 years, told The Stage he was worried the renovation would deprive the West End of “one of the last traditional theatre pubs in the UK”. He has been rallying support from the West End community, and in an email sent to the pub’s owner, Stonegate Group, said: “The pub’s bread and butter is the theatre community. Performers, front of house, backstage workers and theatrelovers. Our custom has always helped ensure the success of the pub.”
He added: “I speak for the theatrical community – as an ex-employee of the Nell, theatre producer and customer of 16 years – we would be devastated if the Nell lost its theatrical charm and character. This pub is adored by so many, so we are anxious to know about the renovation plans.”
Marvin said he had not received assurances that the pub’s heritage would be protected, and raised particular concern about a selection of ‘house full’ signs that have been collected from various West End shows over the years and displayed in the pub. He said he wanted to auction the signs, which were installed by the pub’s previous landlord, to raise money for the charity Acting for Others. He also expressed concern that the upstairs area of the pub, used for play readings, performances and quiz nights, would not be available for these activities when the pub reopens.
“There are so many other pubs the company can jazz up and make contemporary. For a pub that already has that character, it would be horrendous if they took all the history out,” he told The Stage.
A spokeswoman for Stonegate Group said: “We would like to reassure customers old and new that we are investing heavily in the site, to restore it to former glory and give the building a long-overdue renovation. It is our intention to restore, retain and reuse much of the theatre memorabilia in the pub. We are also engaging with members of local theatre community to ensure we do the right thing by the Nell.”
Roy Alexander Weise to make RSC debut in 2022
Roy Alexander Weise is to make his Royal Shakespeare Company debut directing Much Ado About Nothing starring Michael Balogun and Akiya Henry, as the company also reveals a nationwide new-writing project. Weise’s production will mark the return of Shakespeare to the company’s main stage for the first time since the pandemic closed theatres.
The RSC has promised to put co-creation with artists, communities and schools at the heart of its plans for the coming year, with work in its season also including Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses, performed as a double bill and created in collaboration with young people and adult participation groups.
The 2022 programme is part of efforts to foster a nationwide Royal Shakespeare community, the company said, including partnerships with 12 associate theatres and more than 200 associate schools. At its centre will be 37 Plays, a new-writing project with theatres across the country encouraging members of the public, including children and adults, established and first-time writers, to create “the comedies, tragedies and untold histories of our time”.
It will run throughout 2022, culminating in a festival of 37 new plays in 2023 to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio.
Acting artistic director Erica Whyman said the project would unearth new voices for different platforms – it will take place in person and online – and described the plans as “the most ambitious, public writing project in the company’s history”.
On stage, Henry VI: Rebellion will be directed by Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley, with Horsley helming Wars of the Roses. They run from April 1 to June 4, with a press day on April 20.
Much Ado About Nothing, which Whyman described as a fresh take on the comedy, will be the first Shakespeare play performed in the RSC’s main house since February 2020. The debut RSC show from Weise, joint artistic director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, will star Balogun and Henry as Benedick and Beatrice. It runs from February 4 to March 12, with press night on February 15, and will feature an original score by Femi Temowo, winner of best creative West End debut at The Stage Debut Awards 2020.
Weise said: “Living in a 21st-century global society, our world is much smaller and more connected, which is why I wanted to explore what a futuristic vision of society might look like. What has the potential to be different, what potential is there for change, and equally what fundamental aspects of the human condition remain unchanged?”
While the Royal Shakespeare Theatre reopens for audiences, the Swan will remain closed until the summer to carry out essential capital works, including stabilising the ceiling, replacing electrical equipment and improving accessibility.