Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
It would appear that despite protests from both the profession and the public, and the heralded partnership with the Royal Opera House, the fight to keep the Theatre Museum open has failed. A formal announcement will be made in November, but the Museum said in a statement this week that it is likely that the Covent Garden site will close in its present form at the end of this year for reorganisation. When it reopens next autumn, it will primarily be for education and theatre workshops, with perhaps some limited displays. The bulk of the collections will be moved to the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, or (even more ominously) 'other places'.
Edinburgh Fringe Report: Once again ticket sales broke all previous records at 1.5m, a 10% rise on last year. There were 28,014 performances of 1,867 shows in 261 venues - up from 26,995 performances of 1,799 shows in 249 venues last year. The Festival Fringe Society is already circulating information for companies wanting to appear in next year's Fringe, running from 5th to 27th August. Interested parties can subscribe to receive a monthly email bulletin, and download a substantial amount of advice about venues, and mounting and selling a show - but they should remember to factor into calculations that the average audience size for a Fringe show is 6 (or is that just an urban myth?). Further information can be found on the Fringe web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.
Newcastle Playhouse has been reborn as Northern Stage, following a £9m two year redevelopment programme, which has given the theatre two new wings, new public spaces and state of the art backstage facilities. The old main house and studio have been joined together to create the Epic Space, which can be used in the round or in traverse, although an acoustic wall still allows the spaces to be separated into two independent stages. In addition, there is a new Stage 2, in which all performances will be free - the first such theatre in the country. Both theatres will be used for in house and visiting productions. A Northern Stage production of Dennis Potter's Son Of Man, charting the life of Jesus Christ from his 39th day in the desert to his crucifixion, with Scott Handy, Mark Calvert, Paul McCleary and Adrian Schiller, directed by Erica Whyman, launches the Epic Space, on 8th September.
On The Casting Couch: Georgina Rich and Josef Brown will be joined by David Rintoul, Issy Van Randwyck, Isabella Calthorpe and Nadia Coote in Dirty Dancing, opening at the Aldwych Theatre on 24th October; and Richard Wilson and Helen Schlesinger will star in Whipping It Up, opening at the Bush Theatre on 8th November.
The National Theatre has launched a new website to sell quality prints of posters from past productions, going back to its foundation at the Old Vic in the 1960s. They feature stars including John Gielgud, Geraldine McEwan, Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright, Ralph Richardson, Diana Rigg, Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith, and iconic productions such as the original Betrayal, Pravda, Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead and The Royal Hunt Of The Sun. Over 650 posters, searchable by both date and subject, are now available in a range of sizes and finishes, starting from £5. Further information can be found on the NTP web site via the link from The Emporium in the Links section of TheatreNet.
Oxford Stage Company has renamed itself Headlong Theatre, and has announced a year long touring programme, which substantially increases the amount of new writing it performs. The season includes: Restoration, a revised version of Edward Bond's contemporary parody of a Restoration comedy, with Mark Lockyer, Beverley Klein, Madeline Appiah, Robert Eash, Dorothea Myer-Bennett, Michael Shaeffer and Mark Stobbart, directed by Rupert Goold, opening at Bristol Old Vic on 7th September; a reinterpretation of Christopher Marlowe's Faustus, giving it a 21st century dimension, adapted and directed by Rupert Goold, opening at Hampstead Theatre on 24th October; Tony Kushner's Angels In America, the seven hour epic drama about the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York, with eight actors playing multiple roles, directed by Daniel Kramer, opening at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre in the spring; the European premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot, a black comedy that puts Judas, Christianity and Western civilisation on trial; and the world premiere of Rough Crossings, Caryl Phillips's adaptation of Simon Schama's 'Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution', marking the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade in Britain.
The Chelsea Theatre is presenting Sacred, a season of 12 world premieres between 5th September and 2nd May. 12 writer/performers have each been commissioned to create a new piece on contemporary life, events, belief or passion. In the first half of the season, up to Christmas, these will be seen as double bills of works in progress, followed by a discussion between audience and creators, about how the pieces should be developed. In the second half of the season, the finished works will be performed individually. The writer/performers comprise Ron Athey, Gary Carter and Kevin Walton, Goat Island, Kazuko Hohki, Mem Morrison, Third Angel, Dominic Johnson, Helena Hunter, Silke Mansholt, Meline Danielewicz, Sheila Ghelani and Action Hero. Further information can be found on the Chelsea Theatre web site via the link from London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.
Hull Truck theatre company is performing John Godber's Unleashed, the adventures of three businessmen on a trip to Amsterdam, with Rob Angell, Matthew Booth, Una McNulty, Daisy Martin and Simon Naylor , directed by Alice Bartlett, at its home base until 23rd September. Meanwhile, Amanda Whittington's Ladies Day, the story of four fish filleters on a posh day out at the races, with Sue McCormick, Annie Sawle, Lucy Beaumont and Jemma Walker, plus Martin Barrass in a myriad of male roles, directed by Gareth Tudor Price, has just embarked on a national tour, which ends in Hull from 20th November. The world premiere of Christmas Crackers, in which two middle aged A&E nurses go on a surprise 'girls night out' seasonal trip to Prague, written and directed by John Godber, follows on 7th December.
New York TheatreNet: The new musical The Pirate Queen will launch 'castcom', a daily online video diary of the production process, on the show's web site on 12th September, as it prepares to make its pre Broadway debut in Chicago on 3rd October. A preview, featuring scenes from rehearsals, is already available. The show is based on 'Grania-She King of the Irish Seas' by Morgan Llywelyn, the story of a real life Elizabethan female Irish chieftan and pirate. It has book and lyrics by Alain Boublil, with lyrics co-written by John Dempsey, and book and music by Claude-Michel Schonberg. The cast is led by Stephanie J Block, Hadley Fraser, Linda Balgord, Marcus Chait, Jeff McCarthy and William Youmans, the director is Frank Galati, and the choreographer is Mark Dendy, with fight direction by J Steven White. The show opens on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre on 22nd March. The Pirate Queen web site can be found via the link from Shows in the Links section of New York TheatreNet, which is accessible via the link below right