The Almeida's planned West End residency at the Old Vic - which was due to kick off in March 2001 with Frank Wedekind's Lulu, starring film actress Anna Friel in her stage debut - has been called off due to prohibitive costs. According to the Society of London Theatre, the fringe theatre company, whose home base in north London's Islington will be closing soon for an 18-month refurbishment, is now searching for an alternative temporary venue.

One possibility is an old bus garage near King's Cross station. The Almeida is currently seeking planning permission to use the site for performances. If the scheme is approved, Lulu will open there in March, beginning a year-long season of Almeida productions.

It's not the first time that the acclaimed Almeida has utilised a non-traditional venue. Most recently, it staged a double bill of Shakespeare at the disused Gainsborough film studios in Shoreditch, east London. Starring Ralph Fiennes and Linus Roache, the productions of Richard II and Coriolanus played to capacity crowds from March through August this year.

Though such projects are popular, an Almeida West End season had been eagerly anticipated, as these productions would have been eligible for Laurence Olivier Award nominations. The theatre's last major residency in the West End was for eleven months at the Albery Theatre in 1998/99 when it staged Racine's Phedre and Britannicus, starring Diana Rigg, and David Hare's Plenty, starring Cate Blanchett. In 1998, the Almeida also transferred its multi award-winning revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, starring Kevin Spacey, to the Old Vic, while its premiere production of Nicholas Wright's Cressida, starring Michael Gambon, played earlier this year at the Albery.

Lulu, based on Wedekind's two Lulu Plays in a new version by Nicholas Wright, is due to be directed by the Almeida's joint artistic director Jonathan Kent. The story traces the decline and fall of a young woman possessed of a fatal combination of overpowering sexuality and innocence. As she passes through Berlin and Parisian high society to the streets of London, she roundly destroys and is ultimately destroyed by her lovers.