The course to deafening Oscar buzz never did run smooth. While The King's Speech appears to have had an effortless rise, its publicity push had a rocky start in America when its director publicly denounced the poster. "I hate it. It is not going to ever be on any cinema walls," said Tom Hooper. "It's a train smash." The original, a rather basic image of three heads poorly Photoshopped on to a soft-focus leafy backdrop, was duly replaced by a slicker yellow design, featuring Colin Firth's mouth and a microphone.
When the film premiered at the London Film Festival in October, the UK distributors took the opportunity to reshoot. "We would always develop a British-centric campaign for a big British film like this," explains Jamie Schwartz at Momentum Pictures. "We wanted to speak to as wide an audience as possible." They certainly haven't taken any chances. The regal shot of Firth and Geoffrey Rush on the Buckingham Palace balcony is for older viewers, I'm told. Youngsters, meanwhile, are catered for with a bolder image of Firth's face overlaid with GOD SAVE THE KING.
The teaser recalls The Social Network's poster, but was apparently inspired by the ubiquitous Keep Calm and Carry On 1939 propaganda image. Either way, the demographic hedging has paid off. The film gave Momentum its biggest ever opening weekend, taking £3.5m at the box office, beating Slumdog Millionaire.
Polly Stenham, the award-winning playwright (That Face), is expanding her arts empire. Next month, she opens Cob Studios and Gallery in North London. The space, named after her late father, the Unilever tycoon, Anthony "Cob" Stenham, will primarily function as a gallery, which will be curated by Stenham's friend, history of art researcher Victoria Williams. Stenham will also make Cob her writing base. "Writing can be quite an isolated activity. Her idea is to create a hub where inspiring people can work together," I'm told. Here's hoping a third play will be along soon.
A space to flex their creative muscles
When Ed Hall took over as artistic director at Hampstead Theatre last year, he said he wanted to transform the Michael Frayn studio into a "laboratory" for new work. In November, it gave the US screenwriter Gary Lennon (The Shield, Justified) his UK theatre debut. Now Lucy Kirkwood's latest, small hours, co-written with Ed Hime and directed by Katie Mitchell, has started a short run. The studio has been transformed into a living room, with the tiny 25-person audience seated on furniture to watch a woman, wide awake in her flat in the middle of the night. The critics are being kept out, in the spirit of experimentation. "It's meant to be a space for people to flex their creative muscles and just play," explains my spy in Swiss Cottage. Next up is a new David Eldridge, directed by Kathy Burke.
It would have been quite a coup. The 22-year old unknown Welsh writer Brad Birch premieres his play Permafrost at the Royal Court next week as part of the theatre's Rough Cuts season. The recent graduate of the Young Writers' Programme was set to make his debut at the theatre together with another, rather more high-profile, theatrical debutante, Sam Taylor- Wood. The artist-turned-film-maker signed up to direct the piece after talking to artistic director Dominic Cooke, but has now left the project. "She was just really interested in Rough Cuts, but has had to withdraw due to commitments elsewhere. We're waiting to hear on who will be taking over," I'm told. With a week to go, it's to be hoped they find someone soon.
Faris Badwan's day in
Continuing his transformation from Geldof ex to Renaissance man, Faris Badwan, frontman of The Horrors and artist is launching a new night at The Book Club in East London. The Concave Club launches next Thursday, and has aspirations to being a Noughties version of Andy Warhol's Factory. As such, clubbers will be treated to an tunes from Badwan's collection, from 1960s bubblegum pop to 1990s grunge, and the launch will be filmed, giving revellers their 15 minutes of fame – or at least something to post on Facebook.