Rising from the ashes of the former Westminster Theatre in Palace Street, next to Buckingham Palace, the state-of-the-art St James complex – comprising a 312-seat main house, flexible 100-150 seat studio, bar, café, restaurant and broadcast studio - is being built entirely from private money at a cost of £7 million. It opens its doors to the public in August, prior to commencing year-round programming from September.
The first season, under artistic director David Gilmore, kicks off with the London premiere of Bully Boy, directed by Gilmore and written by television and radio personality Sandi Toksvig, which runs from 18 September to 27 October 2012.
Anthony Andrews stars as Major Oscar Hadley, who is investigating allegations of gross misconduct within a self-styled ‘Bully Boy’ unit of the British army. When young squaddie Eddie Clark (played by Joshua Miles) from Burnley is interrogated, Oscar begins to discover that ‘truth’ in a modern insurgency can be a point of view rather than a fact.
Bully Boy was first seen in May 2011 at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, directed by Peter Sandford. It’s now produced by the St James Theatre in association with Lee Dean and Northampton’s Royal and Derngate Theatre, and is expected to tour after London.
Bully Boy is followed, from 31 October to 8 December 2012, by the UK premiere of John Caird-helmed American musical Daddy Long Legs, ahead of a planned Broadway and West End transfer. Based on the 1912 epistolary novel by Jean Webster and set in early 1900s New England, Daddy Long Legs centres on beautiful young orphan Jerusha Abbott. An anonymous benefactor gives Jerusha an opportunity to attend college, requiring only that she write letters to him monthly, even though he won’t respond. As she grows up, the benefactor falls in love with her mind and spirit, captured in the letters.
Broadway’s Megan McGinnis will recreate her award-winning performance in the role of Jerusha, alongside fellow American Robert Adelman Hancock, both of whom starred in the world premiere at Los Angeles’ Rubicon Theatre in 2009.
Daddy Long Legs has a book by John Caird, who also directs. It will be the first mainstream theatre production from the co-director of Les Miserables - also well known internationally for his opera credits – to run in London in eight years. The chamber musical has music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, set and costumes by Olivier Award winner David Farley (Sunday in the Park with George) and lighting by Paul Toben.
Artist's impression of the finished St James Theatre
St James’ Christmas show, a modern take on classic fairy tale Cinderella, runs from 12 December 2012 to 26 January 2013. Not to be confused with a pantomime, the devised piece comes care of physical theatre company Travelling Light and Bristol’s Tobacco Factory, where it premiered.
The first season concludes, as previously announced, with the Out of Joint’s 25th anniversary touring production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country's Good, running from 30 January to 9 March 2013 and helmed by Max Stafford-Clark. Stafford-Clark was the original director of the award-winning 1988 play, which is based on Thomas Keneally’s novel about an Australian colony of convicts tasked with putting on a production of the Restoration comedy The Recruiting Officer.
Tickets at the St James Theatre, on sale from tomorrow (Friday 29 June 2012), will range from £15 to a maximum top-price of £45 for the musical, with no booking fees.
Speaking at a press launch and tour of the venue, still under construction, David Gilmore explained that box office is only one element of the theatre’s “mixed economy”, which also includes income from catering, corporate hire and broadcast services. Rather than feeling daunted by the theatre’s lack of subsidy, Gilmore said: “We all find that invigorating and a spur to our artistic endeavours.”