Theatre highlights among London 2012 Festival programme

Published November 4, 2011

Mark Rylance, Damon Albarn and the Handspring Puppet Company are to take part in the London 2012 Festival, it was announced today.

The vast cultural programme, which was unveiled in a press conference at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad and will comprise a multitude of events staged all over the UK from 21 June to 9 September.

Among the theatrical highlights are Blur frontman Albarn’s new opera Dr Dee, which plays at the London Coliseum from 25 June, a celebration of the work of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, and the premiere of a new show by War Horse puppeteers the Handspring Puppet Company, Crow, to be staged as part of the Greenwich & Docklands Festival.

To celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, Olivier Award-winner Rylance, currently starring in Jerusalem, will present To Be Or Not To Be: Shakespeare Encountered, a series of pop-up performances of sonnets and speeches around London. Speaking at the conference Rylance said: “The idea is to take this beautiful language and put it in the street, put it in a real person’s situation.”

Society of London Theatre-supported events Big Dance and West End Live are to be bigger and better than ever in 2012, as they join in the festival.

Annual London event Big Dance, the initiative which encourages people to get dancing, will be extended right across the country in 2012, aiming to reach five million people over the course of 7 to 15 July. The event culminates in over 1,000 performers joining renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor in Trafalgar Square to celebrate Big Street Dance Day on 14 July.

Before that, free theatrical extravaganza West End Live will welcome the casts of every single one of London’s musicals to Trafalgar Square on 23 and 24 June.

The theatrical events – which also include the previously announced World Shakespeare Festival – are part of a huge programme which comprises visual art, music, performance, film and literature, taking place in London and all over the UK, including at several heritage sites such as Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and Hadrian’s Wall.

Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad, said the programme aimed to “match the Olympic and Paralympic Games in offering once in a lifetime experiences.”

Many events will be free to attend. Tony Hall, Chair of the Cultural Olympiad Board, said around 10 million chances would be provided to see free events.

 “In a time of world economic crisis I think we need art and culture even more than when times are good,” said Hall today.

He added: “I am absolutely certain that what we do next year will have a legacy in terms of tourism.”

The start of the Olympic Games themselves will be signalled on 27 July by a mass bell-ringing in a project commissioned from Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed. At 08:00 bells all over the UK will be rung simultaneously for three minutes. Members of the public are encouraged to take part, and anyone who wishes to can sign up now at allthebells.com

Information about the London 2012 Festival can be found on london2012.com/festival

CB