Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company have today taken a 5 year lease on the National Theatre's underground car park to present a 2020s version of West End long-runner "Starlight Express." The move is inspired by the successful Other Palace Theatre try-out in 2017 and custom-designed show building in Bochum, Germany.
The National Theatre in turn will boost its green credentials and raise badly needed funds. Designed to 1970s standards with extensive underground customer parking, the space has for a considerable time been felt inappropriate in today's pro- public transport era. While retaining an appropriate number of pre-bookable spaces for “access needs” customers, much of the car park is to form the new commercial auditorium.
Designer John Napier will again create a world of racetracks and dreams. Without the height to allow a bridge, and with the consideration of concrete pillars, the new tracks will be longer with more banking. Bochum’s swivelling auditorium seats will be a feature, allowing much of the audience not already track-side to turn and follow the show.
It is also hoped to add to the excitement by using existing car exit and entrance ramps to allow action to continue around the venue, audiences following some sequences on giant screens as at the Apollo Victoria in the 1980s. Awareness of the show will also be raised for other South Bank visitors each evening as the actors pass at speeds of up to 30mph through the piazza or (if wet) the Lyttelton foyer - performances being timed so as not to coincide with emerging interval crowds.
Ticket details will be announced shortly. Priority booking will be given to National Theatre members, with a second period for those pre-registering via the official LW website before noon today.
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The monkey will leave it here for a while to give those after noon a bit of a giggle too.