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Gala evenings planned to boost funds for The Rose



Story by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IN AN ATTEMPT to raise the £6 million still needed to complete The Rose of Kingston, two gala evenings have been planned during its 2004 pre-Christmas season of As You Like It.

The first, on Sunday, December 5, will be hosted by Dame Judi Dench (pictured), with comedian, Jimmy Tarbuck performing the honours the following week, on Sunday, December 12.

POSTED EARLIER: From December 2004, Kingston-upon-Thames will have a brand new theatre, The Rose. Modelled on the Elizabethan Rose, which was built in 1587, it will come under the artistic direction of Sir Peter Hall (pictured above).

The project, costing a staggering £8.5 million, will be unveiled on December 3, although with both funding and construction delays, the official opening isn't expected until autumn next year.

However, there will be a special, three-week, pre-Christmas showing of Hall's As You Like It prior to the ceremony.

With £3.3 million still to raise, Hall has written to arts journalists, encouraging their support for the project, explaining: "The story of the Rose of Kingston is extraordinary and particularly English.

"It wasn't planned by Government or Arts Council but evolved because of the enthusiasm of a group of local people, in alliance with the local authority. Some years ago, they began a campaign to build a theatre. They decided not to build something conventional but to aim for the unique."

And the Rose promises to be exactly that.

Although the main auditorium will be housed within a modern building designed, incidentally, by Michael Holden Associates, its plans are based on the archeological remains of the actual Rose which were discovered in 1989 in the London Borough of Southwark.

Accordingly, the stage will be in the form of a promontory, surrounded by three tiers of seating (1,100 capacity in total), and with a pit for audience 'groundlings'.

With regards to the pre-Christmas production, Hall has said: "The special season of As You Like It performances in December is an attempt to show the world what the theatre will be capable of when it is fully fitted out and opened."

Previously seen last summer as part of Hall's first annual summer residency at Bath's Theatre Royal, As You Lik It will star Philip Voss, Michael Siberry, James Laurenson and Hall's daughter, Rebecca.

The production will then return to America, to be staged in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

When finished, the Rose will have its own company of 20 players who, from September to June each year, will perform in a total of eight plays.

It will also work alongside Kingston University's two-year Master of Fine Arts post-graduate course, with students from various disciplines, such as acting, design and directing, actively joining the company in their final year.

Sir Peter Hall's celebrated career has spanned half a century. He was knighted for his services to theatre in 1977 and in 1999, received an Olivier Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Currently in his second, annual, ten-week repertory season at Bath's Theatre Royal, which will include among other productions, Simon Nye's Don Juan and Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, Hall remains first director of both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre complex on London's South Bank.

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