Respected fringe theatre company the Almeida is preparing for a West End season, according to an article in this week's Stage newspaper. The Company is currently in discussion with Associated Capital Theatres (ACT) to move into one of its venues with a repertory schedule. The speculation follows news last week that the Peter Hall Company, produced by Bill Kenwright, has set up residency at the Piccadilly for a nine-month season of six plays in rep.
One ACT venue that has been named as "an ideal home" for the Almeida's West End venture is the Albery Theatre on St Martin's Lane. This would make the Almeida neighbours with the Royal Court which is currently resident next door at the Duke of York's Theatre while its Sloane Square home is renovated.
The success of the likes of Hall, formerly at the Old Vic, and the Royal Court in its temporary homes has stirred up enthusiasm for repertory in the West End. Whereas before the belief was that rep was too 'experimental' and could not generate enough income in commercial theatre, now theatre owners and producers seem more willing to take the chance.
This is especially good news for actors -- as Sir Peter Hall has said on many occasions -- who become bored with longer runs or simply can't afford them alongside other professional commitments. For ACT's part, it believes that repertory will attract more -- and more varied -- audiences to the West End.
Connections already exist between the West End and the Almeida, whose shows at its home venue in Islington -- such as the current production of Pirandello's Naked starring Juliette Binoche -- are invariably box office sell-outs. The Almeida's production of David Hare's latest, The Judas Kiss, starring Liam Neeson, opens at the Playhouse next month and Racine's Phaedra, in a new translation by Ted Hughes and starring Diana Rigg, is expected to transfer to the West End following its premiere at the Malvern Festival Theatre. --By Terri Paddock
What's On Stage, London