Millionaire Peter Wolff announced Jan. 28 a £1m trust to help young playwrights produce new work for the British stage. The founder says the privately administered Peter Wolff Trust will aim to commission four new plays a year for the next five years. Wolff is already in discussions with various London fringe theatres including the Orange Theatre in Richmond, the Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage and the Almeida Theatre in Islington as well as the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He plans to bolster funds by selling on film and television rights, and reports that the Miramax film company has already expressed some interest.
Wolff, 67, fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish family in 1937 and settled in north London. His first job was as a theatrical photographer in the West End. He went on to make his fortune in clothing manufacturing. He retired last year after selling his company SR Gent for £9m. Wolff says that the Trust is his way of thanking his adopted homeland and the industry which gave him his first job.
The condition for aspiring Trust playwrights is that they must cut down on the gratuitous sex and violence which Wolff sees as a growing trend in modern theatre. As an example of this new offputting genre, Wolff cites Anthony Nielson's Censor, the story of a pornography star who performs a variety of explicit sexual acts on the stage, which played last year at the Royal Court. He believes this kind of play is driving conservative audiences away from the theatre. "It was so vulgar," said Wolff in an interview with The Daily Telegraph newspaper. "How many penises do you need to see in one play?"