The Theatre Royal, Stratford East reopened on Dec. 13. The multi-million pound renovation of one of the two jewels in East London's crown (the other being the Hackney Empire) took a couple of years, but the wait has been worth it and the architect and builders have produced a theatre that can carry on into the millennium with confidence and panache.
The Theatre Royal's previous glory days were under the direction of Joan Littlewood whose revolutionary approach to theatre production gave London A Taste of Honey and Oh What a Lovely War.
Under Miss Littlewood the Theatre Royal became known for its interest in plays about the working class, reflecting the make up of the local community. That community is now drawn from a great many different ethnic groups, and Afro-Caribbean and Asian work is now a strong feature of the Theatre Royal's artistic programming.
Philip Hedley is Artistic Director, and is keen both to encourage young people into theatregoing as a regular activity and to promote new playwrights. Although the newly refurbished theatre has launched with a seasonal pantomime, Aladdin, the next year will see a play, Shoot 2 Win set around a netball team, and a musical version of the Indian cinema epic Baju Bawra.
Three productions that originated at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East - Five Guys Named Mo, The Phantom of the Opera (not the Lloyd Webebr version) and The Invisible Man have transferred to the West End during Philip Hedley's time as Artistic Director, and hopefully this list will be extended now that his theatre has the resources to showcase new plays and musicals to even greater effect.
—by Paul Webb Theatrenow