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The World Comes to London

31 January 2012 | Tom Butler

The eyes of the world will be on London this summer when the Olympics rolls into town, but thanks to the capital’s thriving theatre industry those eyes should already be attuned to the city’s skyline as early as spring.

World Stages London launches in May with eight of the capitals’ finest producing venues hosting twelve UK and international co-producers in an unprecedented collaboration of theatre with each of the shows drawing on the history and experience of one the city’s cross cultural communities.
 
The eclectic nature and diversity of London’s theatre has always been one of its strongest selling points, and following on from recent figures released confirming the West End continues to defy the recession with audience numbers and revenues up on this time last year, that diversity is something the festival draws upon perfectly with its international flavour.
 
‘Legacy’ was the word used to secure the Olympics, and it’s hoped this festival will have a similar effect on the theatre industry ahead of the London 2012 Festival according to Moira Sinclair, the Executive Director of Arts Council England. “World Stages London offers an exceptional programme of hot-ticket events for audiences in the capital in 2012, but also promises to leave a much longer lasting legacy for London’s theatres, through new collaborations, commissions and connections across the world.”
 
The festival has been jointly produced by Battersea Arts Centre, the Bush Theatre, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Royal Court Theatre, Sadler's Wells, Somerset House, Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Young Vic, eight iconic locations across London‘s theatre scene.
 
The collaboration between the venues and production companies adds a very unique element to the festival and is something the co-directors, David Lan and Nicola Thorold, are particularly keen to champion. “London theatres have never collaborated in this way before. We are demonstrating that together we can achieve so much more than we can on our own”.
 
At the heart of the themes of collaboration and diversity is WildWorks production of BABEL with Battersea Arts Centre, in which Theatre Royal Stratford East, the Young Vic and Lyric Hammersmith have all been involved. This production will be the centrepiece of the festival and has been a long time in the making.
 
It has taken a huge amount of time and effort to get to this stage. Developed over two years, and involving over 1,000 Londoners through participatory projects across the capital, BABELwill bring together a large number of communities to explore the diversity of language, culture, ethnicity and human identity.
 
The production will employ a cast of 500 professional and community performers. With high production values and state of the art projections, the re-imagined site-specific space, yet to be announced, with a capacity of over 1,000 will offer audiences a unique theatrical experience that hasn’t been seen in the capital previously.
 
The forward thinking nature of the production is something the artistic director of the BAC, David Mitchell clearly felt suited the venue. “BAC‟s mission is to invent the future of theatre. We think WildWorks is one of the most exciting theatre companies committed to the same ambition and we are delighted to be co-producing BABELwith them.”
 
It’s hard to underestimate the potential a festival such as this can have on new audiences. Hundreds of thousands will see the whole spectrum of shows, and given the geographical spread of the venues involved across London, the variety and diversity of the audiences should be vastly different to those seen in the West End. It is that element of the festival which will ensure it’s legacy and introduce a new generation to theatre.
 
According to Shakespeare, all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. Well next year some of the world’s finest players are creating London theatre history. Such a vast array of cultural offerings is something The Bard himself would have eulogised about and World Stages will ensure the world is watching London sooner than the Olympics intended.


For for details on World Stages London taking place in May 2012, visit the webiste here.
 

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