The Young Vic Theatre in London, which is fundraising for essential building work, is hosting a star-studded gala auction tonight, 6 September 2001. Nine different lots will be on offer with the chance to undertake television work experience, and purchase Yorick's skull, among the bids.

The event will open with a gala performance featuring Peter Brook's current production of The Tragedy of Hamlet. Guests will then dine under a former railway arch, now converted into a banqueting suite. Following dinner, with catering from top celebrity restaurant The Ivy, an auction will be held by Sotheby's. The aim is to offer a chance to bid for items that tickets would not normally be available for.

Among the top names expected at the gala are Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Richard E Grant and Andrew Motion. The lots on offer include: Peter Brook's director's script for The Tragedy of Hamlet; the Yorick skull used by Adrian Lester (pictured) in the production; a trip to the MTV awards in Frankfurt; dinner for ten in your home from Ivy head chef Mark Hicks; private film screening and dinner for ten at the Aldwych Hotel; work experience in the BBC news department; a week's placement on the South Bank Show, and a week attending rehearsals for the Young Vic's Dr Faustus (starring Jude Law) to be directed by David Lan next Spring.

Despite being disappointed by a recent Arts Council grant towards its long and short-term aims, the Young Vic is set to reapply for the next funding round. "We're still costing up the whole project", a spokesman told, "but we're very bullish, as we have to be, about the prospects of realising a refurbished theatre. The gala marks the first visible, high-profile event in our campaign. There will be further different initiatives and we are applying to European, plus public and private sector, funding bodies. We're taking time to look at all the possible options. There will also be two gala nights for our Christmas production of Monkey - A Tale From China."

Speaking to earlier this year, the Young Vic's Artistic Director David Lan said: "What we're after is a rather modest building in the scheme of things, partly because of the type of organisation we are. Our £6m target ought to be achievable to replace what we've currently got which was originally built very cheaply. We have to rebuild and we will do it. Hopefully our many supporters will continue to back us. We've already had a run of successful productions again this year, with more on the go at present."

The Tragedy of Hamlet premiered last year in Paris, where the British Brook has been based since the 1970s. Controversially, the director has cut more than a third from Shakespeare's original text and reduced the cast to just eight. Brook has said of his version: "Our task is not one of finding new ways of staging an old play - there's hardly a device left that hasn't been squeezed dry. This adaptation seeks to prune away the inessential, for beneath the surface lies a myth. This is the mystery that we will attempt to explore."

Briton Adrian Lester stars in the title role. The acclaimed young black actor's stage credits include Six Degrees of Separation and Company while, on film, he has appeared in Primary Colours, Love's Labour's Lost, Dust, The Final Curtain and Maybe Baby.

Forthcoming productions at the Young Vic include David Rudkin's 1960s drama Afore Night Come, Andorra by Max Frisch and A Prayer For My Daughter by Thomas Babe.

- by Gareth Thompson