News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd November 2001

The Greater London Authority has pledged 500,000 towards 100,000 free and discounted tickets (backed up with an offer of free bus travel) to encourage more people back to London's theatres. This follows a meeting of the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone with the Society Of London Theatre. The precise details of the scheme, which is part of the GLA's London's Open For Business campaign, have yet to be worked out. It is hoped that it can be co-ordinated with hotel and restaurant promotions for maximum impact. SOLT has also approached Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell for matching funding, but has received the customary "Apart from money, what can we do to help?" response. Following Broadway's bounce back in attendances, after a disappointing few weeks the West End did bumper half term business last week.

Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson are to star in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan at the Haymarket Theatre, for a four month run from 21st February. One of Wilde's less often performed works, it concerns blackmail after a lady's indiscretion, the evidence for which is the eponymous fan. The production will share the same heritage as the current show at the Haymarket, The Royal Family, with Peter Hall directing and Stanhope and Theatre Royal Productions presenting.

The National Theatre is launching a Festival Of Light on Bonfire Night, with illuminated lanterns and artworks that will decorate its foyers, heralding events on five Saturdays up to Twelfth Night. The first is a European Light and Fire Festival on 10th November. Festival Saturdays, drawing on cultures from around the world, will feature free music at lunchtimes and early evenings, workshops, and late night events, with bands, DJs, dancers, lantern processions, puppets, poetry and fires. Further information can be found on the National Theatre web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Shakespeare's Globe is to stage a series of 400th birthday performances of Twelfth Night at the Middle Temple Inns of Court, in whose dining hall the play received its first known performance on 2nd February 1602. The production, which will feature Mark Rylance, will run from 25th January to 10th February. Middle Temple Hall, which remains largely unaltered since its completion in 1573, will be configured as it was in 1602, with around 300 seats, and the production will be as close in style to the original as possible. Booking will open on 19th November at Shakespeare's Globe.

Concentric Circles will present Sheila Gish and Daniel Betts in Racine's Phaedre at the Riverside Studios from 28th January to 9th March, directed by Christopher Fettes. The play tells the story of a powerful woman torn apart by sexual obsession. Concentric was co-founded by Fettes and Betts, with the aim of offering young actors the opportunity to work with experienced professionals. This replaces its originally announced debut production of Hamlet with Colin Firth.

The Producers, Mel Brooks multi Tony Award winning Springtime For Hitler musical, which has turned out to be Broadway's biggest hit in years, is continuing to blaze new trails. Not content with hoiking its top seat price up to a record breaking $100 the day the rave notices appeared, the show's producers are now going to tout their own tickets. In a move worthy of the show's central character Max Bialystock himself, they are to sell 50 best seats at each performance at a premium price of $480 each, to meet demands of 'money no object' corporate and tourist ticket buyers. When the allocation of seats became available after a promotion with a credit card company expired, the producers decided to establish their own 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' Scalpers R Us business, which should net a tidy $8m extra a year. Theatre owner and co-producer Rocco Landesman is quoted as saying "What we are trying to do is to strike a blow at the heart of the scalping operation." Yeah, right.

Boy George's autobiographical musical Taboo will receive its world premiere at The Venue, off Leicester Square, on 29th January. Formerly the Notre Dame Hall, the dance hall and rehearsal room will be converted into a 350 seater theatre for the run. The show, with book by Mark Davies-Markham, employs 16 new songs, together with many of Boy George's hits, to chart his rise to fame and reflect the times of the 1980s. It is directed by Chris Renshaw, who will then go on to direct Ben Elton's Queen musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. Adam Kenwright is the producer.

Work In Progress: Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical project Bombay Dreams is fleshing out its creative team, which will be firmly western. To the book by Meera Sayal, music by A R Rahman and lyrics by Don Black, have been added director Steven Pimlott, choreographer Anthony van Laast and designer Mark Thompson. Unknown British actress Preeya Kalidas will play the daughter of a Bollywood film director who falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The show will open at the Apollo Victoria early next summer.

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art has set up a joint commercial venture with the Old Vic Theatre to run a series of masterclasses, designed to introduce people to the world of theatre. The daytime classes, to be held at the Old Vic over the next eighteen months, will be taken by tutors and theatre professionals associated with RADA. Profits will go towards supporting RADA, which recently rebuilt its own Vanburgh Theatre, to fund bursaries that support students who would otherwise find the fees impossible to meet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Peter Nichols (who already has a sheaf of unperformed plays) is working on a musical inspired by the songs of Hoagy Carmichael, the American pianist and jazz composer; that a new adaptation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters by Christopher Hampton, directed by Sean Mathias, will be the first joint venture between the Ambassador Theatre Group and Natural Nylon Entertainment next autumn; and that Rictor Norton, who wrote the book which 'inspired' Mark Ravehill's play Mother Clapp's Molly House, is going to sue to recover an 'inspirational' royalty. The Rumour Machine grinds on.