Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
LIFT - London International Festival of Theatre - the biennial event that presents cutting edge companies from all over the world, has just started an extended season running until 21st June. It includes companies from Australia, Cambodia, Denmark India, Lithuania, Palestine and South Africa, as well as the UK. Shows include: Cow, a surreal slapstick anti-adventure, in which one man is the victim of theatrical technology and its omnipresent operator (an all to frequent occurrence); Rousey Dek, telling stories from the Ramayana with Cambodian shadow puppets; Shopworks, about a shop where the items for sale take on a life of their own, performed in a disused shop in Tooting; Museum Of Modern Oddities, blending fact and fiction amid the exhibits at the Natural History Museum; and Strange Familiars with refugees from Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans leading participants on journeys through the gardens of a children's charity. Participating venues include Battersea Arts Centre, Riverside Studios, and Sadler's Wells. Further information can be found on the LIFT web site via the Festivals section of TheatreNet.
Trevor Nunn's recent National Theatre production of Cole Porter's Anything Goes has finally found a West End home, and will be remounted the at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in late September.
English National Ballet is aiming to reach a new audience for dance by making a film of Swan Lake, with international movie star names in the non dancing roles, and utilising the blockbuster special effects associated with the Harry Potter and Tolkein epics. Unlike previous ballet films, it will not be a record of an existing stage production, but a wholly original conception. Shooting is likely to start next spring. The Royal Ballet is also considering a Swan Lake film featuring Darcey Bussell.
John Barrowman, Helen Anker, Patti Boulaye, David Burt, Jo Gibb, Sarah Lark and Jane Lucas are to star in the premiere of The Beautiful And The Damned, a musical about the troubled life of writer F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. It will play a prospective pre West End season at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford from 16th to 28th June. The book is by Kit Hesketh Harvey, and music and lyrics by Roger Cook and Les Reed, with additional material by Phil Willmott, who also directs. The show is produced by Laurence Myers and Charles and Mary Dobson.
The Roundhouse, the former engine shed in Camden, is to stage open days on 20th and 21st May, as a farewell to its past and a signpost to its future, prior to closing for an ambitious redevelopment scheme. Tours and talks will explain the current plans, which see the main area refurbished as a performance space and the undercroft transformed into youth oriented artists workshops. The building has been the subject of many arts oriented schemes since it first staged 'happenings' the 1960s, but all have so far failed to come to fruition because of lack of funds.
The next production at the Bush Theatre will be the premiere of Catherine Johnson's Little Baby Nothing, from 23rd May to 21st June. Set in the west country, it revolves around the lives of three teenagers discovering witchcraft, drink, and their own evolving identities. The cast includes Jem Wall, Suzan Sylvester, Tom Daply, Alice O'Connell and Jenny Platt, and the director is Mike Bradwell.
Now in its 3rd year, the London Comedy Festival, running from 15th to 25th May, is bigger and better than ever. Encouraging new talent and community participation in local events across the capital, the programme includes not just stand-up, but cabaret, a competition to find the best newcomer, comic street theatre (and on the underground), the world's biggest cartoon, and even appearances in public libraries. Further information about events can be found on the LCF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.
Chicken Shed Theatre Company is presenting Alice On The Underground, from 21st May to 7th June, directed by Chris Bond. It is a reimagining of Lewis Carroll's Alice characters in a contemporary 'street cred' musical, with book and lyrics by Chris Bond and Paula Rees, and music by Jo Collins and David Carey.
The Rat Pack, the concert style tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, which ends a run at the Haymarket Theatre on 24th May, will transfer to the Strand Theatre on 26th June.
The Theatre Investment Fund, by arrangement with The Society Of London Theatre, is holding another Workshop For New Producers from 10th to 12th July. This is an intensive course for anyone interested in producing in the commercial West End theatre. The aim is to provide detailed information on how to set up, produce and promote commercial productions, for those who have limited knowledge of production, or have not previously been involved. It will be conducted by leading theatre practitioners led by Andrew Treagus. The inclusive cost is £395. For an application form send a stamped addressed envelope to Workshop For New Producers, The Theatre Investment Fund, 32 Rose Street, London WC2 9ET. The closing date for applications is 21st May.
POLEMOSCOPE The government's slavish pursuit of 'inclusively' in education is having a deleterious effect on major British music colleges: the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, Trinity College of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. They have been told that from this year they will lose funding if, as hitherto, they select students solely on talent, rather than fulfil a politically correct quota of 10% of students from poorer backgrounds - regardless of their ability to play instruments or sing. So the stark choice for our world class institutions is: maintain standards and lose funding, or maintain funding but compromise standards. To make things worse, the colleges have been told that they must expand their 'elitist' classical curriculum and include pop music. At this rate the next move will be for our world renowned drama schools to be required to turn themselves exclusively into academies for the training of Estuary English speaking television presenters.