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Prince Edward Joins the Theater at 'Lowest Rung'

January 19, 1988|TYLER MARSHALL | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — Britain's Prince Edward, youngest of Queen's Elizabeth II's four children and fifth in line to the throne, has taken a job as a production assistant for a leading London theater company.

Buckingham Palace announced that the 23-year-old prince will join Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company beginning next month as one of five production assistants, a job described by a company spokesman Monday as a low-ranking position.

It is the first time in memory that a member of the immediate Royal Family has chosen the theater as a career.

"That's the line of work he wants to follow," said an acquaintance who declined to be identified.

Webber's company has produced an array of smash hits in recent years, including "Cats," "Les Miserables," "Starlight Express" and "Phantom of the Opera."

"It is the very lowest rung" of the theatrical ladder, Bridget Hayward, a company director, said of Edward's job.

She told reporters that the prince will not appear on stage nor be used in any public relations capacity by the company.

A company spokesman described the production assistant's job as varied but often menial.

"One minute you would be the right-hand man to a production manager and the next you would be running up and down making cups of tea," the spokesman said.

When asked if the prince would be required to make tea, Hayward replied, "I make tea; everyone makes tea."

The idea of joining Webber's company apparently came up last year when Edward was working with Webber on a special musical production in connection with the Queen's birthday.

Monday's announcement comes one year after the prince raised public eyebrows by abruptly resigning from the Royal Marines after completing only four months of a 12-month officer training program.

He is believed to have made that decision only after a major disagreement with his father, Prince Philip, who had wanted him to continue the century-old royal family tradition of military service.

Prince Charles, the heir apparent, served in the army, navy and air force and still holds the rank of navy commander. Prince Andrew is currently a navy helicopter pilot and served in the Falkland Islands War.

But Prince Edward is believed to have disliked military life and had difficulty handling the physical side of the marine training, acknowledged as the most grueling in the British armed forces.

His theater interest dates back to his student days at Cambridge University.

After his resignation from the Royal Marines, Edward played in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale," produced by a well-known amateur group in Scotland, and before Christmas was the narrator for a London Symphony Orchestra production of "Peter and the Wolf."

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