Dench, Law, Radcliffe set for slate

LONDON — Judi Dench, Jude Law, Daniel Radcliffe, Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw will lead a five-play opening season from the Michael Grandage Company in a radically priced, 15-month West End commercial venture beginning December 2012.

Playing at the 950-seat Noel Coward Theater, the season includes the world preem of John Logan’s “Peter and Alice” (March 9-June 1). The first stage play by scribe Logan since his six-Tony-winning “Red” stars Dench and Whishaw as the real-life inspirations of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan,” respectively, who meet by chance at a London exhibition in 1932.

The season opens with Peter Nichols’ comedy “Privates on Parade,” starring Russell Beale. Running Dec. 1-March 2, it’s the first of two modern classics, followed by the first London revival of Martin McDonagh’s savage comedy “The Cripple of Inishmaan”(June 8-Aug. 31, 2013), headlined by Radcliffe.

Oliver winner Sheridan Smith and David Walliams (“Little Britain”) will star as Titania and Bottom in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Sept. 7, 2013-Nov. 16, 2013), and the season closes with Jude Law playing the title role in “Henry V” (Nov. 23, 2013-Feb. 15, 2014).

All five productions are exec produced by James Bierman, helmed by Grandage and designed by Christopher Oram (“Evita,” “Frost/Nixon”). They will be lit by Paule Constable (“War Horse”) with the exception of “Henry V,” which is lit by Neil Austin (“Red”).

“This season has been expressly designed to reach out to a whole new generation of theatergoers through a range of initiatives from casting and education to pricing,” Grandage told Variety.

To fulfill that ambition, he and Bierman have constructed a potentially game-changing pricing policy built on the success of their yearlong West End stint in 2008-09, when London’s Donmar Warehouse, the company the duo led at the time, played a season at Wyndham’s Theater that drew auds at 98% of capacity.

Although this season has a top of £57.50 ($89), marginally above standard London pricing for plays, nearly a quarter of the tickets at every performance will be £10 ($15.50). Furthermore, those £10 tickets will be bookable in advance and available at every level of the auditorium, with 24 of them kept back to be made available for day-of sales.

London traditionally sells a wider range of seat prices than Gotham theaters, but the Grandage season will only offer one other price, £27.50 ($43).

There will also be at least one free performance for each production for schools and colleges from across London focusing on first-time theatergoers.

While this innovative pricing means the break-even figure across the season will be slightly higher than usual, Bierman said, “The season can achieve its wider ambitions while making sound commercial sense.”

As part of their commitment to increased access, Bierman and Grandage are encouraging creative engagement via trainee directors and designers for each production. These openings will be advertised via the company’s website.

In addition to the upcoming season, the company is developing a film project for 2014 (currently under wraps) and commissioning further stage work.

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