Theatre Royal Stratford East is re-opening after nearly four years of closure


Theatre Royal Stratford East is re-opening after nearly four years of closure

Theatre Royal Stratford East is re-opening after nearly four years of closure and a £7million refurbishment programme, it will open its doors this December with a season that encompasses the classic family pantomime Aladdin , a new play based on the experiences of a netball team, Shoot 2 Win! in Feb 02, and and an epic musical re-working of the Indian film Baiju Bawra in Mar 02.

Press Release below

In a world that needs bridges, it’s good to have a few experienced engineers about. And Philip Hedley is one of the arts world’s best.

His model structure is, of course, the gloriously eclectic Theatre Royal Stratford East and, after nearly four years of closure and a £7million refurbishment programme, it will open its doors this December with a vibrant season that encompasses the classic family pantomime Aladdin, a hilarious new play based on the experiences of a netball team, Shoot 2 Win! and an epic musical re-working of the Indian film Baiju Bawra.

Unlike most London theatres, Stratford East has spent the last fifty years successfully involving its local community. In Stratford 2001, this means appealing to a very diverse audience - something that Philip Hedley revels in: “As the demography changes, so does the programming and staffing of the theatre. I am very proud that in my twenty two years as artistic director of Stratford East there has been a huge shift in programming towards black and Asian work and that we can boast of the most mixed audience in British theatre.”

Hedley’s community ideals are not so different from those of his most famous predecessor at Stratford East: Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, which was based at the theatre in the 1950s and 60s, launched the careers of Michael Caine, Barbara Windsor, Richard Harris and Harry H Corbett and spawned modern classics such as A Taste Of Honey and Oh What A Lovely War that reflected the concerns of its, then largely white, working class neighbourhood.

In Hedley’s time, the theatre has continued to thrive as an artistic hothouse, producing only new work, with the exception of its renowned pantomimes, and a string of West End transfers, including Five Guys Named Moe, Phantom of the Opera and The Invisible Man. The Theatre Royal has developed the talents of many of the UK’s Black and Asian performers and writers including the comedy troupe The Posse, Meera Syal, Angie Le Mar and Rudolph Walker.

Regular TRSE audiences will be relieved to know that Frank Matcham’s gloriously cosy auditorium has been untouched by the renovation. The real improvements are to those other areas that can make such a difference to the theatre-going experience: A new state-of-the-art box office, better disabled access and enlarged foyer and bar areas, serving both the stalls and circle. Life will be sweeter too for the cast and crew, who now have greatly improved facilities backstage.

But, lovely as the building is, it is not the bricks and mortar that has glued east London’s residents to its most successful theatre. This year, Aladdin will be played by local star Kat, well known on MTV and for on-stage appearances at Theatre Royal Stratford East and Hackney Empire. The cast also includes Brian Protheroe as Abenazar and Michael Bertenshaw as Sung Din.

After Aladdin comes Shoot 2 Win!, a new play by Aarawak Moon, (aka Jo Martin, Josephine Melville and Tracey Daley) old friends of the TRSE. The production revolves around the seven players of a highly competitive netball team, their games, lives, loves and relationships. It will be followed in the repertoire by Baiju Bawra, a musical reworking of the epic 1950s Indian classic film – developed as a result of the Theatre Royal’s unique Musical Development workshop now in it’s fourth successful year.

These are challenging times for a city made up of a rich mix of cultures. The Theatre Royal, Stratford East continues to embrace and celebrate diversity.

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