A topical play from Sandi Toksvig, a musical version of a US classic, a twist on Cinderella and Out Of Joint’s Our Country’s Good make up the first season at the newly launched St James theatre.
The new complex, which includes a 312-seat main house, a 100-seat studio, a bar and a brasserie, will open on the site of the old Westminster theatre in August before staging its first play in September.
Toksvig’s Bully Boy (18 September to 27 October), which will be directed by the venue’s Artistic Director David Gilmore, is the tale of a young squaddie being interrogated and explores the moral issues of contemporary military occupation and its effect on the mental health of soldiers.
Bully Boy is followed by the musical adaptation of Jean Webster’s novel Daddy Long Legs (31 October to 8 December). The story of an orphan and her anonymous benefactor features a book and direction by John Caird, co-director of classic musical Les Misérables, and is currently enjoying a successful US tour.
Christmas brings Cinderella (12 December to 26 January) to the Victoria venue, but not as you might imagine. More heavily rooted in the Grimm fairytale, this Travelling Light production, which was seen at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory last year, is the story of Ella, whose life is shaken when, following the death of her mother, her father takes a new wife and she inherits a host of unpleasant relations. Her only friends are the birds who roost in the tree that grows over her mother’s grave.
The final production in the opening season is Out Of Joint’s touring production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s drama about convicts landing in Australia and staging a play, Our Country’s Good (30 January to 9 March).
The eclectic season reflects the ambition Gilmore has for the new venue; a broad range of work that the company hopes to produce or co-produce – as they have three out of the four shows in the season – for which “quality should be the over-riding factor”.
The success of the theatre, which has cost around £7 million to build, will revolve around, not only selling tickets for productions at the venue, but also the further life of the shows in tours and transfers, comedy, jazz and cabaret in the studio, customers of the bar and brasserie and daytime use of the venue’s facilities for corporate events and launches.
Speaking about the challenges facing the new theatre, Gilmore commented simply: “We find it invigorating.”