Stratford East Reopens after £4.5m RenovationDate: 13 December 2001
Theatre Royal Stratford East officially re-opens tonight with the first press performance of the theatre's Christmas pantomime Aladdin (following previews from 1 December 2001). The 19th-century building has been closed for performances during the past two and a half years while it's undergone an extensive £4.5 million refurbishment.
The East London Theatre Royal achieved fame in the 1950s under the directorship of Joan Littlewood, who produced a slew of ground-breaking shows - such as Taste of Honey, The Hostage and Oh What a Lovely War - with a distinctly working class point of view. Since Littlewood's time, the theatre has stayed true to the mission of reflecting the diversity of its local East End community.
Today, that community is one in which white people are in the minority. The theatre has adapted its programming accordingly and, in recent years, has staged more premieres of Black and Asian work than any other theatre in the country, including two home-produced Black American musicals - Five Guys Named Moe and Unforgettable, the Nat King Cole story - which went on to tour nationally.
The new 2002 programme continues this promotion of new, ethnic minority talent. Following Aladdin, Stratford will premiere a new commissioned work by three local Black women. Shoot to Win, set in the changing room of netball team, opens on 7 February 2002 and will embark on an eight-week national tour following its London run.
Shoot to Win will be followed by a new musical drama based on a classic Indian movie called Baiju Bawra. It is composed by 25-year-old British Asian Niraj Chag.
Commenting on the re-opening and Stratford's plans for the future, artistic director Philip Hedley said: "The Theatre Royal firmly believes that over the next two years it will be able to present several shows which will be role models to young artists, and thereby make the breakthrough which will draw young audiences back into a theatregoing tradition."
Work was started on the theatre's refurbishment in June 1999 and was meant to conclude in November 2000. As part of the redevelopment, new lifts, dressing rooms, a bar and café have been installed, backstage facilities have been updated and the Victorian auditorium has been refitted.
- by Terri Paddock