The Old Vic aims to develop six new plays – through the entire process from writing to casting, rehearsing and performing – in a single day next month as part of the UK launch of the New York-born “24 Hour Plays” concept.

Proceedings begin on the evening of Saturday 5 June when six writers, six directors and up to 24 actors will gather at the West End theatre, bringing no more than a prop and costume each. After working overnight and through the next day, the event will culminate at 7.30pm on Sunday 6 June when the resulting six ten-minute plays will be premiered before a live, gala audience.

Amongst those stage stars already signed up to participate are playwrights such as Kwame Kwei-Armah (Elmina’s Kitchen) and Catherine Johnson (Shang-a-lang, Mamma Mia!) and actors including Penelope Wilton, Alex Jennings, Rosamund Pike, Ray Winstone, Emilia Fox, Paul Nicholls, Catherine McCormack, Meera Syal, Neil Pearson, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Sophie Okenodo as well as Kevin Spacey (pictured), who is also artistic director of the newly formed Old Vic Theatre Company.

Producer Kate Packenham told the Evening Standard newspaper: “This is theatre as live as it gets. No one gets paid, it is about the spirit of the event. The fact that so many great actors are involved is testimony to the fact that it should be great fun.”

Tickets for the star-studded 24 Hours Plays performance are priced from £50 to £250, with proceeds going towards New Voices, the development arm of the Old Vic, which also runs the US/UK Exchange, presenting annual seasons of readings in both London and New York.

The Old Vic’s inaugural season, as a producing house under Spacey’s direction, launches in September with the premiere of a new play called Cloaca by Dutch writer Maria Goos (See News, 22 Apr 2004).

- by Terri Paddock