News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd July 2000

Arts Council of England chairman Gerry Robinson is urging the government to provide an additional £100m annual funding to secure the future of the arts, £25m of which would be earmarked for the theatre. He said this week: "I simply cannot believe that government cannot find a sum of that size to achieve what will be delivered here. The arts are low in cost and high in value. £100m is a tiny sum in the broad context of government spending. It spends that sum every two and a half hours of every day, every month, every year." Recent Arts Council research shows that the arts are not the elitist minority interest they are often portrayed as. 60% of people from all social classes think that their life is enriched by the arts, while almost 75% agree that there should be public funding for arts projects, and nearly 95% of people in social groups C2DE feel that schoolchildren should learn a musical instrument, read poetry or take part in drama - a figure equalling that among ABC1s. Robinson summed up: "The conclusion, having looked in a very hard-nosed way at this sector over two years, is that the arts are fundamentally under-resourced."

Pageant, the Off Broadway transvestite musical revue based an American beauty contest, which currently completing its European premiere run at the King's Head, is to transfer to the Vaudeville in early August. Under the guidance of Lionel Blair (who else?) as MC, male actors battle it out each night for the Miss Glamouresse crown, which is decided by members of the audience. Book and lyrics are by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly with music by Albert Evans. Russell also directs.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is holding another Masterclass season for young people who have an interest in theatre, or are keen to pursue a career in the arts. Sessions begin at 2.30pm, and last around two hours, on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays, starting on 26th September. They are open to people aged 16 and over, and are free of charge - but there is a refundable deposit required confirming the booking. Subjects covered this season are acting, writing, musical theatre, directing, design and production, and advice on getting into drama school. The line up consists of: Janie Dee, Samuel West, Timothy West, Alan Rickman, Alan Ayckbourn, Ayub Khan-Din, John Gunter, Ruthie Henshall, Jonathan Kent and Geoffrey Colman. Further information is available from the Theatre Royal Haymarket web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Rambert Dance Company will return to Sadler's Wells in November with two programmes that will include four London premieres. These will be Mats Ek's She Was Black, 7DS (Seven Deadly Sins) by former Rambert dancer Didy Veldman, Christopher Bruce's Moonshine, and The Celebrated Soubrette, choreographed by Javier de Frutos whose work is notorious for including male nudity.

John Barton's 15 hour, 10 part Greek mythology epic Tantalus will finally receive its British premiere in a Royal Shakespeare Company production which will open the Barbican's BITE:01 season on 2nd May. Peter Hall will mastermind the project, with his son Edward Hall and Mick Gordon also directing. RSC veteran Barton has been working on the project for 20 years, but until now no finance has been available to stage it in Britain. The work is already in rehearsal for its world premiere in October at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which has raised the $6m production costs. The cast in both Denver and London will include British actors Greg Hicks, Ann Mitchell and David Ryall, and Americans Alyssa Bresnahan, Annalee Jefferies, Robert Petkoff and Mia Yoo. The marathon project, which is played over three evenings or two whole days, reunites the Barton/Hall partnership, which created the Wars Of The Roses history cycle for the RSC in 1964. Our Classics correspondent writes: Tantalus was the rebellious son of Zeus, who murdered his son Pelops and served his body at a banquet of the gods. He also offered ambrosia (the food of the gods) to mortals and was condemned to the lower depths of Hades, where fruit and water were just out of his reach (derivation of the word "tantalize"). This cycle, which draws on Greek myths but is not an adaptation of extant texts, follows the plight of Tantalus and his descendants who were involved in the Trojan War.

The Yanks Are Coming: Calista Flockhart is to make her West End debut during her Ally McBeal hiatus next summer in "a classic American play" at the Savoy Theatre produced by Duncan Weldon . . . and despite the poor critical response and swift demise of his Macbeth on Broadway, Kelsey Grammer, egged on by the Scottish play's director Terry Hands, is keen to play Richard III in the West End next year during his Frasier break.

Hampstead Theatre's autumn season comprises the world premiere of Philip Ridley's Vincent River, which centres on a young man and an older woman whose lives become entwined by the chilling secret of Vincent River, directed by Matthew Lloyd on 13th September; Michèle Winstanley's first play Keepers, a darkly comic morality tale in which personalities collide when a zoo faces closure (hasn't John Cleese already done this?) in October; and the world premiere of Shelagh Stephenson's Ancient Lights, which explores the superficiality of modern celebrities through the story of an American movie star who decides to spend Christmas in England with his old friends, on 29th November.

On The Casting Couch: Claire Bloom and Amanda Root will star in Yasmina Reza's Conversations After A Burial opening at the Almeida on 12th September; the next cast of Art at Wyndhams Theatre from 18th July will be Colin Buchanan, Sean Hughes and Alistair McGowan; and Philip Quast and Linzi Hateley will feature in the RSC's revamped The Secret Garden opening at Stratford on 13th November.

David Lan's first season as Artistic Director of the Young Vic will include the only British performances of Peter Brook's new production Le Costume, Can Themba's tale of life in a South African township, in January. The season begins with Lan's production of Julius Caesar running from 20th September to 28th November, followed by The Three Musketeers, directed by Julian Webber for Christmas. Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters In Search Of An Author, in a new translation by David Harrower, directed by Richard Jones opens in February. Lan is in discussions with Jude Law about a production of Marlowe's Dr Faustus at the Young Vic later next year.

The Royal Opera House has announced the return of the big screen in Covent Garden for live transmission of performances for the first time since its closure for redevelopment. An £810,000 sponsorship deal with BP Amoco will ensure that there will be relays of two productions, covering both opera and ballet, each year for the next three years, starting in September.

The Rumour Machine says: that ex Dome chief executive Jennie Page is among contenders to succeed Michael Kaiser as executive director of the Royal Opera House; that Cirque du Soleil has been denied permission to stage its latest show Quidam for a two month run in a tent in Hyde Park (it claims that its usual venue the Royal Albert Hall is too small); and that RUG is developing for West End production Paradise Syndrome, a play by Zoe Lewis about five girls behaving badly in the music industry, which has been workshopped with MTV presenter Donna Air. The Rumour Machine grinds on.