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A year in London theatreland: arrivals, departures and angering members

7671532902_4ddcb26e44It's certainly been an Olympic year in London theatreland, 2012 has seen a slew of hellos and goodbyes, theatres riling those paying for membership schemes and, despite the recession, new theatres.

Departures include the announcement that Michael Boyd will step down as artistic director at the RSC with Greg Doran taking over next year. With the new theatres open and established in Stratford Upon Avon, perhaps Doran will be able to devote some attention to a permanent London home for the company. 

Dominic Cooke also announced he was leaving the Royal Court with National Theatre of Scotland's Vicky Featherstone taking the helm in April next year.

Meanwhile it was hello to Josie Rourke who began her tenure as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse (more on her first year in a future post) while Mandani Younis stepped into her vacated shoes at the Bush Theatre.

And a sort of hello as Michael Grandage launched his first season of plays in the West End following his departure from the Donmar Warehouse. He attracted some impressive acting names to the Donmar and his new West End season isn't any different but more on what I'm looking forward to in another post (yes I have time on my hands) and no prizes for guessing which production is top of my 'can't wait for' list.

But while it was all change at the top for some of London's best loved theatres there were those that were upsetting members who pay annual fees to get access to tickets in advance.

First in the firing line was the Royal Court which announced it wasn't going to sell £10 Monday tickets for the Jerwood theatre upstairs in advance to members. Which wasn't quite as bad as telling members they couldn't buy any tickets in advance to what became known as 'the new Jez Butterworth' play. 

The Donmar quickly followed in the Royal Court's shoes by announcing that it was reserving a certain number of front row stalls and circle seats to be sold for £10 a pop two weeks prior to the performance. Not surprisingly, I've heard reports that the online booking system for buying the £10 tickets is erratic, inconsistent and consequently frustrating.

The National Theatre seems to have got away with less of a back lash about its decision to limit the number of £12 Travelex tickets members can buy and in this case its decision is understandable. The National does have the luxury of more seats to play with but hasn't completely penalised members like the Royal Court and Donmar.

And then there are the new theatres. In the year when I vowed I'd never go to The Globe again (unless Mr W decided to tread the boards) they launched a fundraising appeal for a permanent indoor venue. Hurrah, welcome to the 21st century or at least partially, as I'm sure they will still go for the authentically uncomfortable seating and charge you handsomely for it. As one weary theatre regular said to me 'do we really need another theatre. No doubt the tourists will keep the seats filled when it finally gets built.

Also south of the river the Southwark Playhouse won its campaign to be rehoused in the redeveloped London Bridge Station in 2018, for a while it was looking like the theatre was permanently out on its ear. Now there is a new (and bigger) temporary venue to get ready for April 2013 and extra seats to buy in order to fill it (you can donate here).

Last but not least was the opening of the brand new St James Theatre. Seeing something there is on my list of things to do in 2013 as I haven't quite yet made it - the ticket prices have been a little bit off putting.

While all that was happening Danny Boyle was winning awards for putting on probably the largest and most spectacular theatre performance or in common parlance the Olympics opening ceremony. 2013 has got a lot of live up to.

Related posts from the Rev Stan archive

Greg Doran talks on Front Row about his plans for RSC

Richard III at The Globe review and Globe annoyances

Trials and tribulation so getting tickets for Jez Butterworth's The River