Blanchett launches international theatre

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The Independent Culture

A new brand of international theatre is hitting the West End as leading lights from Hollywood sign up to promote productions involving theatres in Britain, Australia and the United States.



The actress Cate Blanchett was behind the launch of an initiative led by her Sydney-based theatre company this week that brings together acting, writing and directorial talent from the three countries. Riflemind, directed by the American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, is the first in a series of adventurous works to be staged at Trafalgar Studios in London that utilises international creative talent and brings together a trio of ground-breaking theatres .

This latest venture follows in the footsteps of the Bridge Project, a collaboration between the acclaimed director Sam Mendes, Kevin Spacey, the artistic director of the Old Vic, and New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which was announced recently. Their three-year transatlantic venture will involve a double bill of classic works performed at BAM, the Old Vic and a rotating third international venue, starting with Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Tempest under the directorship of Mendes next year.

Such projects suggest a growing trend for cultural "cross-pollination" that could bring more foreign investment to London's theatres and create a new boom in global arts franchises that span a number of theatres or galleries. The idea for the joint project at London's Trafalgar Studios is to exchange work on a regular basis which might not otherwise be seen in different cities across the world, according to Blanchett, who said she may star in a future production herself. But she denied that the productions may end up being bland in their attempt to be culturally universal.

"If something is not specifically powerful to its own place, it will not have universal reach. We're not hoping to find a blandness of storytelling that fits into all places at all," she said. Hoffman added that this international effort was designed to give a platform to "the playwright of whom you have not yet heard and new writers".

Blanchett's theatre group, the Sydney Theatre Company, which she runs with her husband, the playwright Andrew Upton, has also joined up with New York's LAByrinth Theatre Company, co-founded by Hoffman.

Riflemind, which runs until next January, was written by Upton and dramatises the turbulent reunion of a once-great rock band. It brings together a cast of three Australians and four British actors at Trafalgar Studios, which has traditionally showcased adventurous, experimental works.

The venture is intended to make "creative sparks fly" by mixing international talent, according to Howard Panter, the creative director and joint chief executive of the Ambassador Theatre Group, which owns Trafalgar Studios. He said: "We just found the scene [in Australia] untapped but very exciting. We were completely knocked out by their talent."

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