Hampstead's Downstairs space, which was established by the theatre's artistic director Edward Hall, aims to develop new writing free from commercial concerns and does not hold press nights for the work it presents.
Although the theatre has created an environment "free from commercial pressures", the space has already seen its first West End transfer with Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s first full-length play Belongings making its way to Trafalgar Studios 2 following a Hampstead Downstairs season. The play followed hot on the heels of Mike Leigh's Hampstead revival of Ecstasy which transferred from the main stage to the West End, playing a 50-performance run at the Duchess Theatre.
The Peter Wolff Trust was founded in January 1998 to encourage the work of emerging British playwrights and to bring their plays to a wider audience. Their work has previously supported playwrights including Charlotte Jones, Alexi Kaye-Campbell, Shelagh Stephenson and Steve Waters as well as work on the Hampstead main stage.
The £300,000 donation will allow the theatre to stage six plays a year over the next five years, with the first three productions announced for an upcoming season.
Amelia Bullmore will present her play Di and Viv and Rose at the Hampstead from 14 September to 15 October 2011, directed by Anna Mackmin. The pair previously collaborated on the award-winning Mammals with Bullmore's new piece billed as a "hilarious and thoughtful exploration of friendship’s impact on life and life’s impact on friendship".
Lay Down Your Cross by Nick Payne will run from 23 February to 24 March 2012. Payne's previous plays include Wanderlust for the Royal Court, with his poignant new play taking on heartache, forgiveness and the importance of family. It is helmed by Hampstead associate director Clare Lizzimore.
Pamela Carter’s play Skåne is billed as an exploration of the impact of guileless, uninhibited love - and its effect on the relationships we think we know. It follows her recent credits What We Know and An Argument About Sex at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre and will run from 27 October to 26 November 2012.
Speaking about the donation Peter Wolff said in a press statement: "Sixty-five years ago I became a ticket checker at the Embassy Theatre, Swiss Cottage (now the Central School of Drama) and tasted the world of theatre for the first time.
"And now here today I have the great opportunity of joining with Edward Hall in our own theatre at Hampstead Downstairs – directly opposite the old Embassy Theatre. My dream is that this will become the magnet for new writing by all the young unknown talent itching for their first chance."
Hampstead artistic director Edward Hall added: "Peter Wolff has long been an unstinting supporter of young playwrights and a generous patron of Hampstead Theatre, and he was one of the first to offer me substantial support when I took over as artistic director.
"I am really delighted to be able to seal this relationship with Peter which we trust will come to stand as an example of enlightened support for the arts."
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