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BARBICAN LIFE


Theatre previews T


he guest editorial in the Spring issue of Barbican Life, written by C Douglas Woodward, broached the


subject of “Sex for the citizens”. This reminded me of what the Mayor of New York faced some 20 years ago. The fabulous theatre district that was 42nd Street in the 1930s slowly gave way to Burlesque and Vaudeville houses, then cinemas and finally porno film-houses and endless sex-shops.


The concentration of sex-shops led to 42nd Street becoming a dangerous place to visit with its population of prostitutes , pimps and drug addicts all attracted to the area.


Royal New Zealand Ballet - A Song in the Dark - Artists:


Abigail Boyle & Qi Huan Photocredit:


Stephen A’Court


One day in 1995 New York’s Mayor Giuliani planned a major police raid and overnight the whole of the north side of 42nd Street was boarded up, followed by the south side.


The 42nd Street Development Project then reclaimed the reputation of the district with low-interest loans enabling the theatres to be restored to their former glory which generated new jobs, increased tax revenues and widespread business expansion.


I was then recruited by the


Walt Disney Company to advise on the comprehensive restoration of the New Amsterdam Theatre, now flourishing with the successful production of THE LION KING. This was followed by the reopening of a number of theatres, cinemas and five thousand small businesses in the district around Times Square making the area attractive to visitors and tourists.


I became intrigued as to what had happened to all the sex-shops which had been thrown out of the 42nd Street area. Apparently, the Mayor encouraged them to


26


Anthony Field’s previews of theatre in and around the Barbican


open in many suburban districts alongside butchers, bakers, grocers and other shops so that they merged into society. Thus, by not concentrating them in one particular area, they no longer attracted the pimps and drug- addicts but simply became part of local retail shopping.


I suggested this as the basis for a musical by Cy Coleman (who composed SWEET CHARITY), who eventually wrote THE LIFE which was not quite the story I had hoped for but did, in the event, develop the theme of what had happened.


In the meantime, back in the


City, we start to move into the summer months with a sell-out season of “School For Scandal” to 18th June. No doubt Deborah Warner’s direction of Sheridan’s searing lampoon of society obsessed with fashion, wit and


public reputations will now be immensely topical. Running concurrently in the Pit will be “Total Football”, the European premiere of this Ridiculusmus production co-commissioned by the Barbican, the Belfast Festival and the National Theatres of Wales and Scotland. This will be followed by “Lullaby” from 24 June to 24 July which invites audiences to sleepover from 10.30pm to 9.00 am in the Pit. For £42, including breakfast, you can sleep away a Summer’s night with nod-off narratives of soothing storytelling and choral cradle songs. No, I am not writing this on April Fool’s Day. The Royal New Zealand Ballet is back in the Barbican Theatre in July as part of the City of London Festival, with three one-act ballets. This is a rare chance to see one of the world’s most


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