THE success of a play launched by Malvern Theatres in breaking in to the West End could provide a platform for the town to become the birthplace of worldwide touring productions.

King Lear, Malvern Theatres' first major co-production in recent times, will play the Old Vic Theatre in March, after selling out at seven of the 11 venues it visited following its September premire in Malvern.

Theatres' chief executive Nic Lloyd said landing a West End berth for the play not only proved its quality, but opened the door for future home-grown plays to succeed in London.

"It gets our name known," he said. "It shows we're serious players as a production house."

Mr Lloyd would like to set up a company capable of staging its own productions. He said there was a gap in the market for the kind of productions a Malvern company could put together, with the possibility of exporting them to the USA, Canada and New Zealand, as well as the rest of the UK.

He said Malvern Hills District Council's decision to pay off the £600,000 debt left from the theatres' renovation five years ago, meant it was now able to invest in productions.

Several projects are in the pipeline, including a possible George Bernard Shaw festival and a play based on the life of the Duchess of Windsor.

Mr Lloyd said Malvern had proven to be an excellent place to premire plays, as actors were happy to come and audiences were intelligent, discerning and well-behaved.