Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Play's the Thing, as Theatres Rediscover Drama This Autumn

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Play's the Thing, as Theatres Rediscover Drama This Autumn

Article excerpt

Byline: Louise Jury Chief Arts Correspondent

LONDONERS are being invited to make the play the thing this autumn as a cavalcade of stars prepares to tread the boards.

After claims that the blockbuster musical was driving out straight drama, audiences for plays are up 23 per cent on last year.

Hot on the heels of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot proving a surprise West End hit -- with round-the-block queues to see Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart -- Lenny Henry has kicked off a heavyweight autumn with a London run of his Othello.

With Anna Friel, Kevin Spacey, Adrian Lester, Michael Gambon and Samuel West among the star names taking to the stage in new plays and classic revivals, theatre managers have determined to capitalise on play fever.

The Society of London Theatre is launching Celebrate the Play, a new series of competitions and promotions to boost attendances further.

Nica Burns, the society's president, said 2009 would be remembered as the year of the play. "The autumn drama season promises to be one of the best ever," she said. "Hence this initiative which has been embraced by the theatre industry to universally promote the wealth of London's plays this autumn."

Anyone registering on the Celebrate the Play website will be entered into a monthly prize draw for a pair of tickets. From January, members of the CTP club will be offered special events such as meeting the casts of plays and taking backstage tours.

The celebration includes off-West End venues such as the Tricycle, Royal Court and Lyric Hammersmith as well as long-running West End shows including The 39 Steps and The Woman in Black.

Anna Friel, who is starring in Breakfast at Tiffany's, said audiences for plays were still a fraction of those for musicals but people should try them.

"Some people think of [straight] theatre and think, 'Oh my God, it's so boring,' because it's not special effects. …

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