British theatre stars are continuing to voice their opposition to the government's mounting preparations for a war against Iraq. Following activities timed to coincide with the London anti-war marches - which attracted an estimated 1.5 million protestors on 15 February (See News, 13 February 2003), two new "actors for peace" events have been announced for next month.
First off, on Monday 3 March 2003, a reading of Aristophanes' ancient Greek play Lysistrata - which tells the story of women from opposing states who unite to end a war by denying sex until the men agree to lay down their swords - will form a "massed chorus of disapproval" that will start at 11.00am at Parliament Square and will culminate with a first-ever public reading of Tony Harrison's adaptation of the play at the Pleasance Theatre in north London.
The London Lysistrata Project is part of a worldwide movement which will see some 800 readings of the Aristophanes' text staged in 42 countries and involving thousands of artists. In the US, where readings will take place in Los Angeles and New York, some of the high-profile participants include F Murray Abraham, Kevin Bacon, Julie Christie, Eric Stoltz and Ed Begley Jr.
The London event will raise money for the charity War Child. Amongst the celebrities scheduled to participate are: Caryl Churchill, Kika Markham, Joseph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, David Hare, Janie Dee, Ian Rickson, Lindsay Duncan, Adrian Mitchell, Vanessa Redgrave, Andy De La Tour, Richard Wilson, Susannah York, Sheila Hancock and the cast of the current Donmar Warehouse production of Accidental Death of an Anarchist. For further information, visit the Lysistrata Project website.
Later in the month, on Sunday 23 March 2003, a Concert for Peace will be held at the West End's Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Instigated and organised by Olivier Award winning actress Janie Dee, the event will involve actors, singers and writers performing large musical numbers interspersed with readings on the subject of peace. Though the programme is still being determined, Dee hopes to open the evening with "The Circle of Life" for The Lion King.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Dee, who has never previously produced such an event, explained how the Concert for Peace came about. "I was at the Evening Standard Awards when Mark Rylance made a speech explaining how much we as a country spend a year on the arms trade," she says. "I thought, how revolving, and it grew into a discussion after that. As actors, we always stand around talking but never doing anything. But what do you do? I suggested, kind of timidly - do you think a concert for peace would work? Alex Jennings was one of the first people to say yes and it's now snowballed into this huge list."
Amongst the big names already confirmed to appear are actors Judi Dench, Juliet Aubrey, Lindsay Duncan, John Barrowman, Clive Carter, Jenny Galloway, Edward Petherbridge, David Tennant, Emily Bruni, Hilton McCrae and My Fair Lady 2003 Olivier Award winners Alex Jennings and Joanna Riding; opera singer Sally Burgess; playwrights Harold Pinter, Alan Ayckbourn, Patrick Marber; comedians Kit and the Widow; and, making a special presentation, Yvonne Ridley, the British journalist captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Dee is also expecting companies from numerous West End musicals including Anything Goes, My Fair Lady, Blood Brothers and We Will Rock You, who will be performing songs from their respective shows, while many others are still to be confirmed.
"The reason for the concert is really basic. We're saying, if we could have peace, it would better. We do still have a choice," says Dee. "The bottom line is for us to stay on the heart of the matter. We want to reach out and hold each other's hand, we don't want to hurt each other. It (the concert) is a celebration of life."
Tickets for the Concert for Peace range from £10 to £50 with proceeds raised to help victims of war through registered charities including Red Cross, Oxfam, Care and Amnesty International. For further information and to book tickets, call the box office on 020 7494 5092.
And finally, throughout March, the National Theatre will mount a series of weekly discussions titled "Collateral Damage". The free 45-minute events will be held at 5.15pm each Friday - 7, 14, 21 and 28 March - and will feature a wide range of artists articulating their responses to the global situation.
Confirmed contributors to date include Eileen Atkins, Lindsay Duncan, Corin Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Joe Penhall, Alan Rickman, Judi Dench, Hanif Kureishi, Jude Law, Harriet Walter and Patrick Marber. For the latest information, visit the NT website.
- by Terri Paddock