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Dame Helen Mirren is one of three new patrons of Greenwich Theatre

Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen

Theatre news

ON MONDAY, January 14, 2013, Greenwich Theatre announced the appointment of three new patrons – Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren, regular Royal Shakespeare Company director Lucy Bailey and winner of the Whitbread Book Prize, Ali Smith.

Helen Mirren, who can soon be seen playing the Queen in Peter Morgan’s new play The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre, identified the impressive work done by the theatre in supporting those making their first tentative steps into the industry when announcing her patronage.

“I am delighted to support Greenwich Theatre by becoming a patron. At a time when theatres face so many financial challenges the work that Greenwich Theatre does with young and emerging theatre makers, guaranteeing them a break in this tough industry, is inspiring.”

Helen Mirren’s career began in the role of Cleopatra at the National Youth Theatre, with subsequent work in repertory theatre in Manchester. From those beginnings she has become an international star, with her leading role in the 2006 film The Queen earning her an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award and BAFTA Award for Best Actress.

Lucy Bailey, one of the foremost stage directors in English Theatre, said:

“When I first came to London I used to travel across the city to see the shows at Greenwich Theatre. I’ve since moved south and have lived in Greenwich for 17 years. Compared to North London the south of the capital does not have enough cultural provision – Greenwich Theatre has been and continues to be a beacon in a relative cultural desert.”

As a director, Lucy Bailey is recognized as one of the most significant directors working in UK theatre, with regular credits with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the West End. In 2011, at a moment of major arts cuts across the country, Lucy Bailey set up a new theatre – The Print Room in Notting Hill – with producer Anda Winters.

Ali Smith, Whitbread winner for her novel The Accidental, said:

“I couldn’t be prouder to be a patron of Greenwich Theatre. I’ve seen some of the best, most unexpected, most energised and most intelligent theatre there that I’ve ever seen. It’s the kind of place that you leave on a high. Greenwich Theatre makes space for risk-taking theatre right across the board(s). I particularly love the way it welcomes productions from young people still in education. Greenwich Theatre is the place for a whole new education in what’s possible.”

In 2008, Ali Smith granted the stage rights to her novel Hotel World exclusively to the students of Kidbrooke School (now Corelli College). The school produced a stage version which was presented in partnership with Greenwich Theatre at the south London venue before transferring to the Edinburgh Festival, where it beat off huge competition from a host of professional shows to win the Fringe Report Best Play award.

Since then the theatre has worked with the college on two further productions – Romeo and Juliet and Lysistrata – with both transferring to the Riverside Studios as part of the professional programme.

The latest collaboration (at Greenwich in March) is set to be a major departure – the world premiere of a dark new satire by Ben Hales called Poundtown.

James Haddrell, director of Greenwich Theatre, said:

“We have been working over the past five years to change Greenwich Theatre, to transform it into a home for emerging theatre makers, an inspirational resource for children and young people interested in watching or being a part of live performance, and the kind of venue where you will find unusual, challenging, exciting new theatre.

“That work is beginning to show real results, our audiences have doubled in five years, and we now support a host of young companies, from school age to emerging professionals, in carving out a place in this competitive but thrilling industry.

“We could not be more proud to now announce three such distinguished figures as our new patrons. An actress who has journeyed from the National Youth Theatre to the stage at the Oscars, a writer who has supported young people by denying professional applications to stage her work in favour of an ambitious school production, and a director with a reputation as one of the most significant stage directors in this country who had the integrity and commitment to open a new venue, the Print Room, at a moment when public subsidy was clearly dwindling in the arts – there could not be three more passionate artists to champion our work, or three people whose commitments and own life stories better suit the work that we are now doing at Greenwich Theatre.”