Jerwood Foundation's grant of £3 million to ensure the future of the English Stage Company and London's Royal Court Theatre is one of the Foundation's largest and most significant capital projects. The refurbished Royal Court, with its two stages renamed Jerwood Theatre Downstairs and Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, re-opened to great acclaim 20 years ago in February 2000. Prizes included a RIBA Award.
The Royal Court's redesign by Haworth Tompkins, incorporating materials such as corten weather steel, jarrah wood, polished concreate and dark leather, reflects the theatre's radical tradition. The 380-seat Jerwood Theatre Downstairs was subtly changed to achieve much better sightlines and greater theatrical flexibility. The 85-seat Jerwood Theatre Upstairs was built with better headroom, far greater technical capacity and flexible seating which allows for many unconventional configurations.
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. Photo: Andy Chopping
"I think the building is genuinely extraordinary and together we've created possibly the most beautiful playhouse in the country"
- Stephen Daldry, Director Royal Court Theatre (1992-1998)
The relationship between the Royal Court and Jerwood has been upheld and continues through the Jerwood New Playwrights programme which was introduced in 1994 by Stephen Daldry (Artistic Director, Royal Court 1992-1998) and celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2019. Initially supported by Jerwood Foundation, it has been funded by Jerwood Arts since 1999 and remains rooted in the Royal Court’s desire to create a more sustainable culture and stage for new writers.
The longevity and consistency of Jerwood’s support has enabled the exploration and development of new forms and voices through the staging of 87 challenging and robust plays by 72 playwrights in the crucial first 10 years of their careers – including some of the best known, important and respected playwrights in theatre today.
In July 2019, Jerwood New Playwright, Jasmine Lee-Jones’s debut play, seven methods of killing kylie jenner was staged in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs to huge critical acclaim. Lee-Jones went on to win Best Writer in The Stage Debut Awards 2019, the Alfred Fagon Award for the best new play by a black British writer in 2019, the Charles Wintour Award for the Most Promising New Playwright in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2019 and the Critics Circle Award for the Most Promising Playwright 2019.
Jerwood New Playwright, Polly Stenham's That Face at Royal Court Theatre, 2007. Directed by Jeremy Herrin and performed by Lindsay Duncan and Matt Smith. Photo: John Haynes
Jerwood New Playwright, Jasmine Lee-Jones's seven methods of killing kylie jenner in Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at Royal Court, 2019, directed by Milli Bhatia and performed by Tia Bannon and Danielle Vitalis. Photo: Helen Murray