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Above the Stag fringe theatre to focus on original gay writing

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A 50-seat fringe venue dedicated to new writing is to open this week near London’s Victoria Palace Theatre.

It will be home to gay theatre company Shameless, which will be rebranded as Above the Stag Theatre when it moves into its new home over The Stag pub.

According to Peter Bull, producing artistic director of the company, it will programme plays and musicals created in-house and through collaborative projects, and will also present the work of touring companies. Shows will be loosely themed around gay issues, and the emphasis will be on new work.

Bull told The Stage: “I think its important to help develop new works for playwrights. To get a new playwright produced is very difficult, and it is very difficult to get reviewers to come along to a new work. But the fringe is all about trying things out. You need the fringe to develop new plays, you need to have these spaces where you can try new things, change them, adapt them, and move them onto the next level.”

The first show will be American Briefs – a series of short works by US-based playwrights – which will open on October 28 and will run for a month. The company’s Christmas production will be male burlesque act Something Naughty This Way Comes, by Saintly Sinners.

In 2009, the venue will run a season of plays by Dad’s Army actor Frank Williams, Busted Jesus Comix by David Johnston, based on a real-life controversial story of a minor prosecuted on obscenity charges, and the UK premiere of The Choir by Errol Bray.

Bull hopes that the venue – which has been funded entirely by the theatre company – will also be able to host late-night burlesque shows on a regular basis.

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