St James Theatre to open in the autumn

St James Theatre, the first new, purpose-built theatre in central London for 30 years, will open its doors this August. It is situated in the heart of Victoria on the site of the former Westminster Theatre, which was destroyed by fire almost a decade ago.

The fully wheelchair-accessible venue will produce and receive work. It comprises a 312-seat theatre with an adaptable stage, a studio space, a brasserie and a bar. It is designed by Foster Wilson Architects, has extensive multimedia facilities and will feature an Italian marble staircase in the main reception designated a public work of art.

At a recent launch of St James’s inaugural programme, artistic director David Gilmore revealed that the theatre will receive no public subsidy. Funded by private investment, its revenue will depend entirely on ticket sales, transfers and tours. Gilmore described this as “invigorating” and “a spur to our endeavours.”

The studio space, which has a moveable stage and capacity for 150 standing or 100 seated, will host comedy, music and cabaret nights. Acts that have already signed up to perform include jazz pianist Dorian Ford and musical comedy double-act Frisky and Mannish.

The new theatre’s first season will open in September with a new play – Bully Boy, by writer and presenter Sandy Toksvig. Directed by Gilmore, it will explore the ethics of military occupation and the effect on the mental health of serving soldiers.

This will be followed in October by the UK premiere of new musical Daddy Long Legs, written and directed by the Tony and Olivier Award-winning John Caird and produced by St James Theatre in association with Rubicon Theatre Company. Based on a popular American children’s book, it will star Broadway actress Megan McGinnis.

St James will celebrate Christmas with a production of Cinderella devised by Travelling Light and first performed at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre last year. Inspired by Grimm’s fairytale rather than Disney, it will be directed by Sally Cookson.

The season will conclude in style in January with a revival of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s modern classic Our Country’s Good, produced by Out of Joint and Octagon Theatre Bolton. Max Stafford Clark will return to direct the play whose premiere he oversaw at the Royal Court more than 25 years ago.

Tickets for all productions in the season are on sale from 29 June. For more information, go to the St James Theatre website.

First published by Exeunt Magazine