pounds 16m lottery cash will revive theatre alive

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Another major London arts institution has benefited from the National Lottery, with an award to the Royal Court Theatre of pounds 16m for renovation and repair.

The grant was the biggest announced yesterday by the Arts Council, which recently gave pounds 78m to the Royal Opera House.

While announcing the Royal Court money, the Arts Council also confirmed pounds 2.3m towards the cost of making six films, the first time it has given money to film production.

One of the films, which will receive pounds 1m, will be an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders, to be directed by young documentary maker Phil Agland. The Arts Council will retain the right to veto casting on all the film projects that are partially funded from lottery money and will insist on largely British casts. Another film, receiving pounds 36,000, will celebrate the silver jubilee of the Glastonbury Festival. The Royal Court, in London's Sloane Square, the national centre for new writing, will close for two years from next spring and will use the Duke of York Theatre in the West End to stage its productions.

The development plans include improving seating and disabled access carrying out health and safety repairs and building a new restaurant under Sloane Square, with tunnel access to the green in the square.

Stephen Daldry, the Royal Court's artistic director, said yesterday: "The theatre is in such a terrible state at the moment that without this funding we would not have been able to survive more than about 18 months."

He added that the existing drains flooded the stalls in George Bernard Shaw's day, and the electrics had given Laurence Olivier shocks in the 1920s.