London Theatre Company was founded by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr on leaving the National Theatre after 12 years. It will focus on the commissioning and production of new shows, as well as staging the occasion classic.
The Bridge is its home, a new 900-seat adaptable auditorium designed to answer the needs of contemporary audiences and theatre makers that it capable of responding to shows with different formats (end-stage, thrust-stage and promenade). It is the first wholly new theatre of scale to be added to London's commercial theatre sector in 80 years.
What is immediately striking about the first season announced this month is the emphasis on new writing. Of the first eight productions, all but Julius Caesar are new works. Equally noticeable is that four of the premieres are by women and that there is a nod to gender-fluid casting by having Cassius played by Michelle Fairley.
Balancing Act, Hytner's memoirs out this week, reminds the reader of the astonishing success the National Theatre enjoyed during the period he ran it. Hytner transformed its box-office, he oversaw the staging of hit after hit, productions such as War Horse.. The book reveals that we the audience take for magic is often technical expertise, and that nevertheless it is impossible to guarantee a success.
However, at a time when the West End is increasingly a Broadway like shop window for musicals and spectacular diversions, the existence of a new independent theatre devoted to plays is to be welcome.