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Directing theatre to the future; The new Belgrade COVENTRY'S famous Belgrade Theatre is opening for business again after an pounds 11 million transformation. Theatre writer MARION McMULLEN talks to the theatre's artistic director Hamish Glen about what the future holds for the popular city stage.

Byline: MARION McMULLEN

WORLD-CLASS drama, cutting edge theatre and new writing are in store for Coventry audiences.

Britain's first post-war theatre has been spruced up and refurbished and people will be able to get their first peek of the new-look Belgrade Theatre when it reopens on September 3.

The moment will mark the end of 18 months building work and the landmark venue will also be introducing Coventry's newest theatre - the B2 studio.

Artistic director Hamish Glen is looking forward to welcoming audiences back with a bumper season of entertainment that includes everything from international drama, modern classics and musicals to tribute bands, comedy specials and midday variety.

The new season also features the return of panto legend and Tweenies creator Iain Lauchlan in traditional family panto Aladdin and top theatre director Trevor Nunn returns to direct at the Belgrade Theatre for the first time since working as a trainee director in the city in the early 60s.

Hamish says: "The Belgrade Theatre was one of the most important landmarks in the UK's cultural landscape and its reopening marks a true return to its roots.

"An opening season comprising new and challenging productions alongside a more familiar range of popular touring work, performed in an outstanding and beautifully restored venue, will give the people of Coventry the theatre they truly deserve."

The Belgrade Theatre offered exciting drama and work when it first opened in 1958 and it saw early performances by actors such as Leonard Rossiter, Sir Ian McKellen, David Suchet, Michael Crawford and Joan Plowright.

Hamish says: "We want to find a voice for the Belgrade and bring internationalism to the city.

"The theatre has always had international links - as shown by its very name - and that is the theme of the theatre. We have active connections with Europe and Europe is represented in the new season.

"We have classic European work and rarely seen work that still appeals to a contemporary audience now. They are very accessible and very entertaining. We are not trying to exclude audiences and I think the new season is wide ranging and the mix will appeal to everyone."

Hamish is keen to attract national and international attention to the Belgrade's work and wants people to head to Coventry to see top drama.

There are already plans for an outdoor production of Wim Wender's classic Wings of Desire in Coventry next summer.

"We need to be ambitious and bold," says Hamish, "it's an exciting time and we want to offer high quality work that will really grab people's attention."

Fact file

HAMISH GLEN

ASSISTANT stage manager at Traverse Theatre from 1980-81.

STAGE manager Paines Plough and assistant director on Shared Experience production of Marriage by Gogol.

FORMED Writers' Theatre Company and directed Noonday Demons and the British premiere of At It and More Happy Chickens.

DIRECTED the British premiere of Arthur Miller's Two Way Mirror for Traverse Theatre.

WORKED for Tron Theatre.

ARTISTIC director Winged Horse Theatre.

DIRECTED Gogol's Gamblers for Lithuanian State Theatre.

ARTISTIC director Dundee Rep Theatre and oversaw pounds 3.4 million refurbishment.

WORKED with Mikkeli Theatre, Finland.

DIRECTED What the Butler Saw by Joe Orton for Tampere T Theatre.

WORKED with Helsinki Theatre.

BECAME artistic director of the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in 2003.

Tickets for all shows available online from www.belgrade.co.uk or call 024 7655 3055

CAPTION(S):

AN END IN SIGHT... Hamish Glen surveys the Belgrade construction site as work nears completion. Pictures by James Balfour JB130707GLEN6; JB130707GLEN7; EARLY STAGES... Hamish Glen (holding spade, far left) at the construction launch and (left, on the right) with Sir Trevor Nunn and Iain Glen.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Article Type:Theater review
Date:Aug 25, 2007
Words:607
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