At the same time as, on the east side of Leicester Square, the 340-seat Arts Theatre is facing possible demolition (See News, 24 May 2005), on the west side, a new 200-seat theatre is being launched.

Sound Theatre, converted from a former nightclub in Leicester Square’s Swiss Centre complex, will open next month with a new production of Moises Kaufman’s The Laramie Project, running from 24 June to 28 July 2005 (previews from 21 June). The opening season will continue with Frankie and Johnnie in the Clair de Lune by fellow American Terence McNally and a new version of Prometheus Bound starring David Oyelowo (The God Botherers, Henry IV for the RSC, TV’s Spooks).

The new venue is the brainchild of young producers Holly Kendrick and Chris Perkins. The pair previously co-founded the Caird Company and now run KIT Productions, whose other productions this summer include The Arab-Israeli Cookbook at north London’s Tricycle Theatre (See News, 4 May 2005).

The provocative press release announcing Sound Theatre declares: “Current trends show that the large West-End playhouses are seeing their audiences atrophying while the smaller avant-garde theatres (The Bush, Gate, Tricycle, Arcola and BAC) thrive. It’s time for a new generation of theatre professionals to reclaim the West-End for a vibrant, young and engaged London audience.”

KIT Productions will present its own work – “contemporary, accessible, reasonably priced, cutting edge productions - something that no other West End theatre can boast” – at the Sound as well as transferring successful off-West End and fringe productions and programming late night slots of cabaret, music and performance art.

In addition to various industry dignitaries, Sound is being supported by stars including Rhys Ifans, Damian Lewis, John Simm, Sadie Frost, Keith Allen, Jackson Scott and Badly Drawn Boy, who’ve taken part in fundraising efforts for the venture.

In the opening season, The Laramie Project - created by Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project based on 200 interviews with people from Laramie, Wyoming, where a gay college student was murdered in 1998 – will be directed by Ruth Carney and designed by David Farley. The cast includes Margot Leicester and Russell Tovey.

It’s followed, from 22 July to 13 August 2005 (previews from 19 July) by Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, designed and directed by James Phillips. The 1987 play was originally a hit Off-Broadway with Kathy Bates and Kenneth Walsh and was previously seen in London with Julie Walters and Brian Cox. In 1991, it was filmed, as simply Frankie and Johnny, with the decidedly photogenic Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino in the title roles of a weary waitress and an ex-con cook who fall reluctantly in love between short orders at the New York diner where they both work. The stage play at last received its Broadway debut in 2002.

The final production in the opening season, Prometheus Unbound starring Oyelowo, runs from 19 August to 13 September 2005 (previews from 16 August). English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's lyrical drama, first published in 1820, is based on the Greek myth about the man who so angered the god of gods that he was left on a mountaintop where his liver was eaten away by a vulture only to grow back and be eaten again each day. The Sound production will be directed by James Kerr.

- by Terri Paddock