Michael Grandage, the director who brought us Nicole Kidman, predicts West End resurgence

Robert Dex
·3-min read
<p>Grandage directed Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51 </p> (Getty Images for Lincoln Center)

Grandage directed Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51

(Getty Images for Lincoln Center)

The man who brought Oscar winner Nicole Kidman to the West End stage says he has no doubt major stars will return to London’s theatres as they begin to reopen.

Michael Grandage, who directed the star in Photograph 51 which won her the Evening Standard best actress award in 2015, has brought big names from Jude Law to Daniel Radcliffe to the capital’s theatres.

He said: “Before than pandemic hit we were in negotiations with lots of actors, directors and designers about doing effectively a season but we shelved the lot and since Christmas I’ve been picking up all those conversations and reaching out to a lot of people.

“There seems to be no sense of ‘Oh, I’m going to put my theatre career on hold and concentrate on other areas’. I don’t think any of that has gone on.”

Grandage, who ran the Donmar Warehouse for a decade before setting up his own production company, has just announced a major extension of the bursary scheme run by his charity which supports up-and-coming theatrical talent.

The extension has been funded in part by £300,000 from the Theatre Community Fund which was spearheaded by stars including Olivia Colman and Pheobe Waller-Bridge and this year it has awarded backing of up to £5,000 to 33 young applicants.

Grandage said it was in part an attempt to “build an industry for the future” at a time when lockdowns and social distancing have crippled London’s theatre. He said: “I think we have to proceed as if we are coming back and I think we will be coming back.

“The one thing that’s been interesting about this opening up over the past week is there was all that debate going on about ‘Do you think people have learned to do retail online and does anyone want to shop anymore?’ And then look at this, we’ve opened up the shops and there are queues around the block and I think the same will happen to theatre. Eventually when we open up there is going to be a very large group of people who have spent their lives going to the theatre who will want to return.”

Talking about the bursary recipients, Grandage said: “They are the ones teaching us all the right positive attitude about this. That’s what I love about them, that’s one of the reasons I’m completely behind this entire bursary scheme and everything we’ve been doing for the last five years because they help us older ones understand that it’s about the art of positive thinking.”

His comments came as it emerged that some of the stand-out stars of the Edinburgh Festival could appear at a new London venue this summer. Acts who prove a hit at the festival will be on stage as part of London Wonderground which is to take over the Earls Court 2 Exhibition Centre from July to September. The free-to-enter event includes a mixture of free and ticketed shows as well as bars, fairground rides and an outdoor beach.

Shows will be performed in two indoor venues including a 36-metre big top with plans for socially-distanced seating if that is still needed when they open.

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