Hampstead Downstairs was created last year by artistic director Edward Hall to give writers a space to try things out in front of an audience, with the writer’s agenda at the center of the activity. Free from commercial pressures and without "official" critical assessment, the aim is to help new writing develop with the possible opportunity of a future move to a larger audience either at Hampstead or elsewhere.
The donation will support six new plays per year. The first three for the 2011-1And2 season have been announced. Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose, described in press materials as an exploration of friendship’s impact on life and life’s impact on friendship, will begin performances Sept. 14 for a run through Oct. 15, under the direction of Anna Mackmin. It will be followed by Nick Payne’s Lay Down Your Cross, described as a play about heartache, forgiveness and the importance of family, beginning performances Feb. 23, 2012 for a run through March 24, under the direction of Clare Lizzimore. Then, Pamela Carter’s Skåne, described as an exploration of the impact of guileless, uninhibited love and its effects on the relationships we think we know, will begin performances Oct. 27 for a run through Nov. 26.
In a press statement, benefactor Peter Wolff commented, "How the wheel does turn! 65 years ago I became a ticket checker at the Embassy Theatre, Swiss Cottage (now the Central School of Drama) and tasted the world of theatre for the first time. And now here today I have the great opportunity of joining with Edward Hall in our own theatre at Hampstead Downstairs – directly opposite the old Embassy Theatre. My dream is that this will become the magnet for new writing by all the young unknown talent itching for their first chance. I hope Edward allows me to become the ticket checker again for just one night!”
Edward Hall adds, “Peter Wolff has long been an unstinting supporter of young playwrights and a generous patron of Hampstead Theatre, and he was one of the first to offer me substantial support when I took over as Artistic Director. It was immediately evident that there was synergy between the aims of his Trust and what we were trying to create with the Hampstead Downstairs programme. So I am really delighted to be able to seal this relationship with Peter which we trust will come to stand as an example of enlightened support for the Arts, and I hope to have my ticket torn by Peter himself in the not too distant future."
Full details of Hampstead’s current program can be found at www.hampsteadtheatre.com.