News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd February 2007

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to present the world premiere of Margaret Atwood's stage adaptation of her novel The Penelopiad, directed by Josette Bushell-Mingo, opening at the Swan Theatre in Stratford on 27th July, in a co-production with Canada's National Arts Centre. Drawn from the events in Homer's Odyssey, the novel retells tale of Odysseus from the point of view of his wife Penelope and her maids, through song, dance and storytelling, with an all female cast.

Figures released by the Society of London Theatre reveal that 2006 was a record breaking year for London theatre, with a total of 12,357,153 tickets sold, up 0.48% on the previous record set in 2005. Total ticket revenue topped 400m for the first time in the West End's history at 400,802,809, and advanced ticket bookings hit 57m, more than doubling the figure for 2005. Attendances in the first half of the year were below average, but the autumn, with the string of new musicals opening, brought in new attenders and saw a sharp rise in regular audiences. Among those welcoming these figures will be the Treasury, which last year received record VAT receipts of over 59m from ticket sales alone.

The National Theatre has added a further production to its repertoire in the Cottesloe this spring, with the premiere Joe Penhall's Landscape With Weapon, with Tom Hollander and Julian Rhind-Tutt, directed by Roger Michell. Mitchell will then direct Harold Pinter's Betrayal, the semi autobiographical play about a wife who has a long term affair with her husband's best friend, which starts with the crumbling of the marriage and unravels backwards in time to the night the affair began, opening at the Donmar Warehouse in the summer.

The Grade 1 listed Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, Britain's only remaining Regency Theatre, will focus on 19th century drama when it reopens in the autumn, following a 5.1m refurbishment programme. The scheme, by architects Levitt Bernstein, recreates the theatre auditorium's original Regency features, as designed by William Wilkins, improves backstage facilities, and includes a new wing, containing a bar, restaurant and exhibition gallery, together with a garden for summer use. The Regency season will open on 11th September with Douglas Gerrold's Black Ey'd Susan, a melodrama set in the Napoleonic war, in which a poor woman whose husband is at sea, is pursued by her evil landlord, directed by Colin Blumenau. Some performances will be accompanied by John Maddison Morton's one act farce Box And Cox, the inspiration for Sullivan's comic opera Cox And Box. The season will also include a co-production of Purcell's King Arthur with the German Goethe Theater.

Late night cabaret is to return to the Prince of Wales Theatre's Delfont Room, with cast members of Avenue Q (both human and puppet) presenting a unique celebration of Valentine's Day, on 14th February; and West End company members Kelly Price, Gina Beck, Alice Fern, Rebecca Trehearn, Paul Ayres, Edward Brewer, Jon Robyns and Giles Terera, performing songs by British writers on Wednesday 14th March. Shows begin at 11pm.

The spring season of Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory in Bristol comprises Othello, playing from 9th February to 17th March; and Much Ado About Nothing, playing from 23rd March to 289th April. Andrew Hilton will direct both plays.

A collection of costumes created and supplied by Angels the costumiers for some of the most iconic international film, television and theatre productions in history, will be sold at Bonhams Auction Rooms in Knightsbridge on Tuesday 6th March, in what is believed to be the UK's largest ever auction of film and television costumes. More than 400 items, including Obi-Wan Kenobi's cloak from the original Star Wars, James Bond's suits from Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, and the Batman and Robin outfits from Only Fools and Horses, plus principal costumes from films such as Braveheart, Titanic, Elizabeth, Indiana Jones, Highlander, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Evita, Superman and Harry Potter will be offered for sale. In a world first, the saleroom will be turned into a dressing room, allowing prospective buyers the opportunity to try on selected costumes. Angels is the world's longest established costume supplier - it was the founder Morris Angel who first offered actors the option to hire rather than buy costumes in 1840.

The spring season Nottingham Playhouse includes the world premiere of Whisky Galore! The Making Of A Fillum, adapted and directed by Giles Croft from the novel by Compton Mackenzie and screenplay by Mackenzie and Angus MacPhail, based on the premise of the cast switching roles and improvising props, acting out a new draft screenplay of the story of Scottish islanders hiding the whisky they have liberated from a wrecked ship, with Richard Shelton, Karen Drury and Robert Austin, playing the first date of a national tour until 17th February; George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession, the confrontation that takes place when a daughter finds out that her mother's fortune and social position was derived from prostitution, with Paola Dionisotti and Emma Stansfield, directed by Tony Cownie, a co-production with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, opening on 14th March; and J B Priestley's time play I Have Been Here Before, in which a mysterious doctor arrives at a Yorkshire inn, saying that according to his recurring dreams, the course of the occupants future lives hinges on this one critical weekend, directed by Giles Croft, opening on 27th April.

The next production at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark will be Christopher Hampton's first play Total Eclipse, with Daniel Evans and Jamie Doyle, directed by Paul Miller, opening on 28th March. It charts the intense relationship between 19th century French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine.

The spring season at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond includes Cicely Hamilton's Diana of Dobson's, an Edwardian feminist comedy in which a shop girl comes into an inheritance, with Daisy Ashford, Edward Bennett, Lavinia Bertram, Cate Debenham-Taylor, Richard Hollis, Miriam Hughes, Geoff Leesley, Debra Penny, Charity Reindorp and Julie Teal, directed by Caroline Smith, opening on 14th February; John Galsworthy's The Skin Game, a confrontation between an old money land owning family and a new money property developer, with Clive Francis, Geoffrey Beevers, Daisy Ashford, Edward Bennett, Lynn Farleigh, Richard Hollis, Miriam Hughes, Charity Reindorp, Graham Seed, Julie Teal, Christopher Terry and Dudley Hinton, directed by Sam Walters, opening on 21st May; and John Masefield's The Tragedy of Nan, a rural British tragedy of Greek proportions set in 1810, directed by Auriol Smith, opening on 2nd May.