2008 predictions…in theatre

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It's a tough time for stage, because much of the 'cultural funding' usually set aside for theatre is being cut back. The Arts Council, which often backs smaller productions, is going into slash-and-burn mode. This means cuts in funding for  non-mainstream drama productions, who normally rely on its support – tenuous at the best of times – to go ahead.Drama festivals, perhaps not as popular as the notoriously hedonistic tented music festivals, are nevertheless a great place for new talent and quirky theatre. The National Student Drama Festival, which runs in March this year, has just had its annual £52,000 budget cut entirely. Not the sort of news to instill confidence. Yet despite this lack of funding, it looks set to be as brilliant and innovative as always. Another one to look out for this year is Latitude, held in Suffolk (July 17th -20th) and now in its third year. The festival features up-and-coming theatre, comedy, burlesque and poetry, besides its main musical attractions. Latitude has gained recognition for its cultural richness, helped along by comics like Bill Bailey and Dylan Moran and performances of Nabokov and Shakespeare plays. Last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was brilliantly comic, while a conceptual piece, based on fairy tales and staged in the woods, was truly terrifying.This year also sees the modest beginnings of the new Kingston Theatre in London. Based on the layout for the original 1587 Rose theatre, where Shakespeare and Marlowe performed, there are plans for the theatre to be linked to Kingston University and used as a base for two residential drama companies. It opens for business on January 16th with a production of the play Uncle Vanya.Of course, mainstream theatre is still thriving, with productions like The History Boys and War Horse set to return once again as popular yet relatively erudite fare for theatre-goers. Noël Coward's plays are in the limelight this spring, with The Vortex playing in the Theatre Royal Bath and then the Apollo. With Felicity Kendal playing the lead, this production is sure to receive a lot of attention. So I thought I’d get in first. The National Theatre is also focusing on Coward, staging Present Laughter, and also two of his shorter dramas, The Astonished Heart and Still Life, as part of its 'Platforms' project. And quite honestly, given the snowballing prices of cinemas and clubs, a revitalised slice of vintage Coward should be required viewing for the average Oxford student…And finally, the question that is resounding over the boards of the stage world: now that Darcey Bussell has retired, who will fill her role as Principal Ballerina? Ballet has received a lot of attention lately as the national papers are awash with interviews with the diva ballerina; who will be next to steal the limelight?by Ellen Griffifths 

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