Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter and Aimee Lou Wood will perform Shakespeare sonnets as part of a fundraising appeal for London’s Jermyn Street Theatre, which has claimed it is facing “financial ruin”.
The Off-West End venue said it was facing difficulties as a result of the double impact of coronavirus and a severe flood that hit the building in central London earlier this month.
The Sonnet Project began on March 21, the week the theatre closed to the public, with sonnet performances released daily, alongside requests for donations.
Actors including David Suchet and Miriam Margolyes have already contributed to the project, in which actors perform the sonnets from their homes or on their daily walks.
Now, figures including Colman, Bonham Carter and Wood are among the stars who have agreed to perform one of a total of 154 sonnets to be released every day until late August.
They will be joined by Penelope Keith, Timothy West, Jamael Westman, Tobias Menzies, Grace Saif, Penelope Wilton and Julie Hesmondhalgh, as well as 55 graduating drama students whose showcases have been cancelled.
The theatre’s fundraising campaign has already raised £50,000. However, the venue is warning of the huge financial losses it will incur over the coming months.
Enforced closure due to coronavirus is losing the unfunded venue 95% of its income, while a burst pipe in a neighbouring basement left much of the theatre’s premises under 5ft of water and caused significant damage to its props and technical stores, dressing rooms, offices and archive.
Artistic director Tom Littler said: "When you sit down with a group of strangers in a theatre – especially a tiny theatre like ours – you share something important. Laughing together, crying together, holding your breath together. It’s that shared community that’s helping Jermyn Street Theatre now. We always try to be the smallest theatre with the biggest heart."
In addition to the Sonnet Project, the theatre is hosting a digital season called Brave New World, comprising online play readings and cabaret nights, featuring actors not currently working, to reach its most isolated audience members.
Littler added: "We’ve been so moved by the generosity of our audience - their financial support but also all the encouragement they’ve sent by email, letter and on social media.
"The actors involved in Brave New World and the Sonnet Project are just amazing - giving their time and talent freely. The doors are closed, but the theatre is open."