News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd February 2006

The Watermill Theatre Newbury production of the musical Mack And Mabel, starring Janie Dee and David Soul, directed by John Doyle, will open at the Criterion Theatre on 5th April. The show has a book by Michael Stewart, and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Set in Hollywood at the peak of the silent movie era in the 1920s, it charts the tempestuous relationship of director Mack Sennett and his star, the comedienne Mabel Normand.

The Roundhouse, the former Victorian engine shed in Camden, home to everything from Hamlet to 'happenings' in the 1960s, is to reopen in June, following a 29.7m refurbishment programme. The main arena can now accommodate 1,800 seated on two levels, or 3,300 standing, in a variety of configurations. A new wing houses a cafe, bars, box office, offices, a 200 seater studio space, Studio 42 (named in recognition of Arnold Wesker's Centre 42 project that first launched the Roundhouse as an arts centre) and 100 seater informal performance space the Hub. The first event in the main arena will be Fuerzabruta, the latest physical theatre show by the Argentinean company that created De La Guarda, opening on 5th June. Studio 42 will open on 1st June with Grassmarket Project's The Foolish Young Man, a collaboration featuring David Harewood and 15 non-professional young performers. The Undercroft beneath the main arena has been reconfigured into Roundhouse Studios, which include rehearsal rooms, sound recording studios, and video editing and production suites, to provide opportunities for young people to develop skills and explore their creative potential. Further information can be found on The Roundhouse web site via the link from the London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Argentinean performer Elena Roger, Philip Quast and Matt Rawle will star in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Evita, directed by Michael Grandage, with choreography by Rob Ashford, opening at the Adelphi Theatre on 21st June. The show tells the life story of Eva Peron, the wife and 'power behind the throne' of the Argentinean dictator Juan Peron. The score will be augmented by the new song written for the film version, and given a more South American flavour than the original. It is a Really Useful Theatre Company production.

Despite the terrorist attacks, last year was a record breaking year for London theatre. Attendances reached 12,109,904, surpassing the previous record of 12,064,100 in 2002, and box office revenue reached 375,163,399, contributing 56m in VAT receipts to the Treasury. The number of theatregoers attending musicals rose by 4.9%, and those attending plays rose by 5.1%. London audiences are made up from roughly one third residents of Greater London, one third from elsewhere in the UK, and one third by visitors from overseas. The figures are collated by the Society of London Theatre, based on the 53 major commercial and grant aided theatres in central London.

The National Theatre of Variety will be officially launched at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool on 18th February, the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Variety Artists Foundation, with A Cavalcade Of Variety. The show will be a celebration of the history of variety, with 'appearances' by the clown Joseph Grimaldi, and theatre owner Oswald Stoll, a recreation of tableau vivant (as featured at the Windmill Theatre) and a seaside pierrot show, as well as circus acts, comedians, singers and dancers. Performers will include Guy Barrett, Frank Carson, Jim Casey and Eli Woods, Bernie Clifton, Jimmy Cricket, Jean Fergusson, Elaine Fossett, Leanne Fury, Tony Lidington, Syd Little, Claude Powell, Steve Royle, Tweedy the Clown, Blackpool Circus School and Funny Girls.

An expanded version of last year's Edinburgh Fringe hit Pete And Dud - Come Again, by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde, which reviews the comedy partnership of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore from Moore's perspective, directed by Owen Lewis, will open at The Venue, off Leicester Square, on 7th March. It features Tom Goodman-Hill and Kevin Bishop, with Colin Hoult, Fergus Craig and Alexander Kirk. The show is presented by Simon and Siobhan Rhodes-Johnson, Lee Menzies, Bob Boyett and James Seabright.

The Edinburgh Fringe has launched its annual nationwide Roadshow of seminars to give would be producers an idea of what is involved in taking part. Dates and locations are in February: 17th - Cornerhouse Manchester, 18th - Soho Theatre London, 19th - LCB Depot Leicester, and 25th - George Square Theatre Edinburgh, plus 4th March (Press and Marketing) - Pleasance London, and 4th April - National Student Drama Festival Scarborough. Events are free and other than Leicester do not require booking in advance. Further information about the Fringe and these events can be found on the Fringe web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

To mark the centenary of the death of Henry Irving, who made the acting profession respectable and became the first actor to be knighted, a commemorative event will be held on 13th February at the Lyceum Theatre, where Irving was resident for many years. The evening will begin with Ian McKellen unveiling a plaque recognising Irving's association with the theatre. Simon Callow will then introduce a rehearsed reading of The Bells, by Leopold Lewis, the play in which Irving made his name, as a good man destroyed by guilt after committing one evil act. The company will comprise Steven Berkoff, Daniela Denby-Ashe, Cherie Lunghi, Matthew Kelly, Derren Nesbitt, Ian Lavender, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Ron Moody, directed by Roy Marsden, who will also narrate.

The Rumour Machine says: that a new play by Edward Albee will be staged at the Donmar Warehouse later this year; and that Merce Cunningham's Ocean, a dance piece for 150 performers may be performed at the reopened Roundhouse in the autumn. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . In the best cheap publicity stunt of the year so far, the producer of Steptoe And Son In Murder At Oil Drum Lane, opening later this month at the Comedy Theatre, is appealing for junk to dress the rag and bone yard set. The supplier of the best junk offered each week will receive a pair of free tickets, so start turning out your loft. To take part, email a picture of your rubbish to