News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd April 2004

The Ambassador Theatre Group has received planning permission to remodel the interior of the Whitehall Theatre, splitting it into two separate spaces, which it will rename the Trafalgar Studios. The scheme extends the circle forward to create one bank of around 380 seats and an extended and raised open stage, similar to that applied to the Lyttelton Theatre, as part of the Transformation season. There will also be a separate 96 seat studio theatre in the space under the circle. Work will begin immediately, and the new configuration will be launched on 3rd June, with a transfer from Stratford of the current Royal Shakespeare Company production of Othello, directed by Gregory Doran. It stars Sello Maake ka Ncube, Antony Sher and Lisa Dillon, with Charles Abomeli, Barry Aird, Justin Avoth, Ken Bones, Peter Bramhill, Vincent Brimble, Edward Clayton, Jonathan Duff, Mark Lockyer, Paul O'Mahony, Clifford Rose, Nathalie Armin, Amanda Harris and Viss Elliott.

Sadler's Wells has announced its summer season. Carlos Acosta returns with Tocororo - A Cuban Tale, the Cuban dance spectacular, featuring dancers from the leading Cuban dance company, Danza Contemporanea, which plays from 29th June to 24th July. Former Royal Ballet principal Adam Cooper stars in and choreographs a new production of the musical Singin' In The Rain, directed by Paul Kerryson, running from 3rd August to 4th September. The show is based on the 1952 film, with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, and is set in Hollywood in the early days of the talkies. It is a co-production with Leicester Haymarket where it will transfer on 9th September, re-opening the theatre that has been dark since its dramatic closure since last summer. Ballet C de la B presents Wolf, choreographed by Alain Platel, an epic scale concoction of chamber music, opera and dance theatre, featuring 19 musicians, 3 singers, 10 dancers and 14 dogs, from 9th to 11th September.

Those who prefer their performers to have four legs will be pleased to hear that the The Spirit Of The Horse is returning to venues across Britain with a new show between 8th April and 15th August. An international cast of riders, dancers and physical theatre artistes, together with 30 horses, including Andalusia, Arabian and Cossack stallions, blend dramatic action, poetic motion, and comedy into a unique equestrian spectacular, created and directed by Phillip Gandey and Nikki Fossett. Further information can be found on the SOTH web site via the link from the Shows section of TheatreNet.

On The Casting Couch:; Gavin Lee, David Haig, Rosemary Ashe and Jenny Galloway will join Laura Michelle Kelly in Mary Poppins, opening at the Prince Edward Theatre in December; and at the National, Kate Duchene and Peter Needham will lead in Iphigenia At Aulis, opening on 22nd June, and Philip Quast, Desmond Barrit, Hamish McColl, Jane Fowler, Harry Towb and David Schneider will star in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum opening on 9th July.

English National Ballet returns to the Royal Albert Hall with its in the round production of Swan Lake, choreographed by Derek Deane, from 9th to 19th June. The show features a company of 120, including a sixty strong swan chorus. It is presented by Raymond Gubbay.

The Warehouse Theatre Croydon is holding its 19th International Playwriting Festival, which is in two parts: a competition with entries from all over the world, followed by a series of workshops and readings, leading on to the presentation of the best work in November. The deadline for entries is 30th June. Further information and an entry form can be found on the Warehouse web site via the link from the UK London Venues section of TheatreNet.

Kristen Johnston, Jimmy Smitts, Brian Murray, Sam Waterston and Elizabeth Waterston will star in the Public Theater's free Shakespeare In The Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by David Esbjornson, at the Delacourte Theatre in New York's Central Park from 22nd June to 8th August. Among the productions in the autumn season at the Public Theater's Lafayete Street complex will be a new play by Neil LaBute, This Is How It Goes, examining interracial romance; John Jeter's Dirty Tricks, about the Watergate scandal, starring Judith Ivey as Martha Mitchell; and Richard III, with 4ft 6in tall actor Peter Dinklage in the title role.

The Talawa Theatre Company production of James Baldwin's Blues For Mr Charlie, directed by Paulette Randall, will play at the Tricycle Theatre from 16th June to 10th July. Set in the Deep South of America just before the birth of the civil rights movement, it is loosely based on the Mississippi murder trial of Emmett Till. The cast is Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Leland Burnett, Sylvano Clarke, Ruth Grey, Sam Hazeldine, Junior Laniyan, Barnaby Kay, Alibe Parsons, Rolf Saxon and Ellen Sheean.

The Theatre's Trust, the national body whose purpose is to promote the better protection of theatres, is in the process of making its theatre database available online. A veritable treasure trove for theatre enthusiasts, the Trust's entire database contains records of over 3,400 theatres past and present. Currently there are over 700 venues online (and growing), searchable by theatre name, town, dates of construction or architect, with a wealth of historical and other information, and links to theatre websites where available. Further information can be found on the TT web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The summer season at Greenwich Theatre includes: the Salisbury Playhouse production of Jamaica Inn, the classic Cornish adventure story of romance, murder and mystery, adapted by Lisa Evans from the novel by Daphne du Maurier, directed by Jonanna Read; English Pocket Opera with Leoncavallo's The Clowns (I Pagliacci); the Sherman Theatre Cardiff production of Pinocchio, adapted by Mike Kenny; and Opera della Luna with Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, performed by a company of eight actor-musicians, directed by Jeff Clarke, and choreographed by Jenny Arnold.

This year's Music On A Summer Evening series of outdoor picnic concerts at the English Heritage properties of Kenwood, Marble Hill and Audley End, during July and August, offers a wider range of attractions than ever. Highlights include: Jamie Cullum, The Gypsy Kings, Bryan Ferry, Status Quo, Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with Sam Brown and Ruby Turner, Club Classical with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Anne Dudley, and an Opera Gala with Deborah Norman, Wynne Evans and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, plus the famous flag waving Last Nights and firework finales. Further information can be found on the MOASE web site via the link from the festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Ken Russell will direct Brave New World, a musical based on Aldous Huxley's future world novel, with a book by Alexander Marshall and score by Jonnie Rockwell, on Broadway early next year; that Ralph Fiennes will play Hamlet again next year, in a small scale production directed by Adrian Noble; that Duncan Weldon and Andrew Jenkins will bring Don Hood's The Cuckoo And The Nightingale to the West End; and that the Queen 'musical' We Will Rock You will make its American debut at the Paris Theatre Des Arts in Las Vegas in September, with Ben Elton both revising the book and directing. The Rumour Machine grinds on.