News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 1st August 2008

Once again there is an extravagance of premieres in the 30th Dance Umbrella, running from 30th September to 8th November, presenting the best of national and international contemporary dance, with 21 companies performing at venues across London. Highlights include: Richard Alston Dance Company with Blow Over, set to music by Philip Glass; Rosemary Butcher with Episodes Of Flight, interweaving a single performer, visual images and an urban soundscape; Merce Cunningham Dance Company with Xover, set to music by John Cage; Mark Morris Dance Group with Romeo And Juliet; and Stephen Petronio Company with This Is The Story Of A Girl In A World, exploring the increasingly blurred concept of gender, to music by Antony Hegarty, Lou Reed and Nico Muhly; plus Rodrigo Pardo performing his Toilet Tango in a shop window; Tiago Guedes creating Various Materials, with a pair of scissors, sheets of newspaper, sellotape and a sheet of blue plastic; and the return of Compagnie Beau Geste presenting Transports Exceptionnels, a duet for man and digger in 5 different locations. Full details of programmes and venues can be found on the Dance Umbrella web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

Opera North's 2008/2009 season, opening at the Grand Theatre in Leeds on 26th September, will comprise the world premiere of David Sawer's Skin Deep, libretto by Armando Ianucci, a comic operetta about cosmetic surgery and the obsession with the body beautiful; new productions of George and Ira Gershwin's political satire Of Thee I Sing, and its sequel, Let 'Em Eat Cake, book by George S Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, directed by Caroline Gawn; Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, directed by Orpha Phelan; and Mozart's The Abduction From The Seraglio, directed by Tim Hopkins; plus revivals of David Pountney's production of Shostakovich's Paradise Moscow; Christopher Alden's production of Puccini's Tosca; and Tim Albery's production of Verdi's Don Carlos; and concert performances of Richard Strauss's Elektra.

Genista McIntosh has delivered the report of her enquiry into Arts Council England's handling of its recent spending review. It is highly critical of the process, and says that ACE must act more as an advocate for the arts and less like a 'policeman' of public funds. McIntosh highlights problems over how ACE's regional and national offices worked together, and the way the organisation engaged with its clients and partners. She suggests that these were because of "a preoccupation with implementing its own priorities, leading to an inward-looking culture which inhibited it from talking openly to its clients, partners and friends". However, she does suggest that since the row over the Investment Strategy process, there are encouraging signs of recovery, thanks in part to the actions of its new chief executive. The full report and ACE's response can be found on the ACE web site, via the link from Organisations in the Links section of TheatreNet.

New York TheatreNet: British theatrical polymath Jeremy Sams is directing the coming of age musical 13, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, choreography by Christopher Gattelli, which will open on Broadway at the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, on 5th October. It is the story of a boy who moves across the country when his parents divorce, and has to face the traumas of fitting into a new High School. The show recently played at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam with a cast entirely made up of teenage performers. Broadway casting is still unconfirmed.

Jermyn Street Theatre, off Piccadilly Circus, is to stage the first in house production since it opened in 1994. Gillian Plowman's Crooked Wood, with Doreen Mantle, Clive Carter, Shona Lindsay, Alec Walters and Nick Waring, directed by Gene David Kirk, will open on 10th September. It is the story of an eccentric old lady who refuses an offer of 1m to leave her rundown, crumbling home, which stands in the way of a housing development.

Derby Playhouse will reopen on 13th September with a production of Frank Marcus's The Killing Of Sister George, after creditors voted in favour of proposals put forward by the board to take the company out of administration. The company was forced into administration last Christmas when Derby City Council refused to advance part of its annual grant, and Arts Council England then removed its funding as part of the recent controversial spending round. The new company will operate as a not-for-profit organization, and will not receive funding from either ACE or the local council. Instead, it is being supported by a group of unnamed investors, who have also helped to pay off 300,000 of debt which was owed to creditors. This represented around a third of the total owed - however, 500,000 of this was caused by the company needlessly going into administration.

On The Casting Couch: Josh Hartnett and Adam Godley will be joined by Mary Stockley, Colin Stinton, Charles Daish and Tilly Blackwood in Rain Man, opening at the Apollo Theatre on 9th September; and Ray Davies will feature with Alasdair Harvey Anthony Flaum, Bradley Clarkson, Delroy Atkinson, Gemma Salter, Katey Munroe, Katherine James, Marcus Ellard, Martin George, Samantha Hughes, Stephen Lloyd and Wendy Mae Brown in Come Dancing, opening at the Theatre Royal Stratford East on 24th September.

Stage Directions: Writing On Theatre: 1970-2008 by Michael Frayn, recently published by Faber and Faber, covers half a lifetime and the whole range of his theatrical writing, up to his latest play, Afterlife, currently at the National Theatre. It is a series of autobiographical essays related to the plays that he has written, and the process he went through in creating them, together with the thoughts they have provoked on the nature of theatrical experience. Whatever subjects Frayn has tackled, from the exploration of the atomic nucleus to the mechanics of farce, both in the plays themselves and in these essays, he is never less than fascinating, delightfully funny and charming.

Northern Ballet Theatre will premiere Cathy Marston's dance version of A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens's epic story of injustice, vengeance and the redemptive power of love, set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, performed to a new score by Dave Maric, at the Grand Theatre in Leeds on 30th August, opening a regional tour. The repertoire for the tour will also include David Nixon's A Midsummer Night's Dream, seen as the romantic entanglements of a touring dance company travelling by sleeper train from London to Edinburgh (with strange things happening when they enter a tunnel) in a design style of late 1940s Dior New Look, and Nixon's traditional production of The Nutcracker.

Robert Bathurst will reprise his performance as Alex, the Daily Telegraph's comic strip corporate financier, written by the cartoon's creators Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor, and directed by Phelim McDermott, opening a regional tour at the Theatre Royal Windsor on 27th October. The one man show details Alex's increasingly desperate attempts to juggle his job, marriage and social life, as crises hit all three and threaten to ruin him. Projection design by Fifty Nine allows Alex to interact with characters from the strip and other elements of his cartoon world. The producer is Eleanor Lloyd.