News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd August 2001

For the fifth year running, Worldart Media will be webcasting hundreds of acts from its Festival Revue stage in Princes Street Gardens throughout the Edinburgh Festival, in the world's largest live arts broadcast. It is estimated that last year over 1 million people saw the shows live, and over 5 million in 85 countries watched via the webcast. As well as the live acts, exclusive pre-recorded material will also be shown on the giant screen in Edinburgh and webcast. Worldart encompasses all art forms from opera and ballet, to club culture and festivals, aiming to make the arts more accessible to a global audience. There is a link to the Worldart Madia web site from the Webcasts section of TheatreNet.

Neil LaBute's The Shape Of Things is to transfer from the Almeida Theatre to the Off Broadway Promenade Theatre in New York on 10th October, with the London cast of Gretchen Mol, Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz and Frederick Weller. The play examines modern relationships and how far we are prepared to go for love and for art. LaBute directs.

Soho Theatre will present the interesting casting combination of Janet Suzman and Les Dennis in Cherished Disappointments In Love, from 14th September to 8th October. Adapted by Bryony Lavery from Finland's biggest theatrical hit by Jouko and Juha Turkka, it is described as 'a passionate comedy, fragrantly spiced with sex, desire and sponge cake'. Sue Parish directs a Sphinx Theatre Company production. Last year's Verity Bargate Award winner Office, a story of contemporary street life by Shan Khan, directed by Abigail Morris, will run from 24th August to 8th September, following an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival. The first play by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Behsharam (Shameless), a comedy about the dreams and dysfunctions of a first generation Asian family in Birmingham, plays from 12th October to 3rd November. This is a co production with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

They All Laughed!, a 'new' Gershwin musical, is playing at the Goodspeed Opera House East Haddam until 22nd September. Joe DiPietro has fashioned the show by taking elements of Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse's book for the 1926 musical comedy Oh, Kay!, together with some of the original George and Ira Gershwin score, plus other Gershwin songs. The broad comedy involves a female bootlegger who hides her hooch in a playboy's Long Island mansion. Christopher Ashley directs the pre Broadway tryout production. Meanwhile on the west coast, Dracula The Musical receives its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse from 21st October to 18th November. Book and lyrics are by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, and music by Frank Wildhorn. Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff will direct, again with Broadway in mind. Further information on these shows can be found on the Goodspeed Opera House and La Jolla Playhouse websites via links from the International section of TheatreNet.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is presenting an Andrew Lloyd Webber double header. The start of the UK regional tour of a new production of Sunset Boulevard, from 14th August to 8th September, will be followed immediately by the start of the UK regional tour of a new production of Whistle Down The Wind, directed and co produced by Bill Kenwright, from 14th to 29th September.

Whispers Along The Patio by David Cregan, directed by Sam Walters, is currently receiving its world premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough until 15th September. It is a comedy of five very lonely people, whose pursuit of private passions cause chaos, when a bizarre set of circumstances bring them together to share a meal by candlelight. This co production will transfer to the Orange Tree Theatre Richmond.

A world wide series of events will be staged throughout next year to mark the centenary of the birth of composer Richard Rodgers on 28th June. Rodgers enjoyed collaborations with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein, creating shows that defined musical theatre for a generation. British highlights will include: South Pacific directed by Trevor Nunn at the National Theatre; a West End production of The Sound Of Music by the Really Useful Group; all star gala concerts at the Royal Albert Hall by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; On Your Toes at the Haymarket Leicester; and new CDs and books, including a biography. New York highlights will include The Boys From Syracuse; the National Theatre production of Oklahoma!; two shows which have not been seen in New York for 75 years - a fully staged production of Dearest Enemy and a concert version of Peggy Ann; and major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum. Further information can be found on the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

Simon Callow is taking The Mystery Of Charles Dickens, his one man show by Peter Ackroyd on tour again, starting at Richmond Theatre on 27th August. Callow exercises his robust acting skills, bringing to life Dickens and thirty five of his characters in a manner not dissimilar to that employed by the author himself. The director is Patrick Garland.

The Rumour Machine says: that Shakespeare's Globe is hoping to stage Twelfth Night in a series of 400th birthday performances next year at the Middle Temple Inns of Court, in whose dining hall the play received its first known performance on 2nd February 1602; that the Chichester Festival Theatre production of the Gershwin musical My One And Only will transfer directly to the West End at the end of September; and that despite renewed reports of her participation in a National Theatre production of Ibsen's The Lady From The Sea, Nicole Kidman may star in a West End season of two plays in repertory directed by Sam Mendes some time next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.


A study by the Policy Studies Institute has registered a slight fall in numbers patronising the arts, despite higher public spending. It has (unsurprisingly) been leapt upon by the philistine tendency, which is now trying to use it as a stick to beat the arts with. In fact, even with the rise, public spending on the arts is still pitifully small, and is a drop in the ocean of work needed to refurbish buildings, after years of neglect due to persistent underfunding. It is far more likely that audiences are staying away from poor facilities and decrepit buildings, rather than the events taking place inside them. Paradoxically, the dreaded obsession with "accessability" probably has something to do with falling numbers. Dumbing down the arts because they are considered too elitist is now being shown to be entirely counterproductive. It does not result in enticing in those people who find the arts too much to handle, but it does alienate the existing audience which feels patronised. We should celebrate elitism. After all, God created sport for those people who lacked the intellectual capacity or the emotional sensitivity to appreciate the arts - and sport already receives plenty of money.