News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd October 1997

Lord Gowrie has resigned as Chairman of the Arts Council after being unable to reach a suitable working relationship with the Labour administration. He is regarded by the new brooms as elitist. This dramatic event comes at a time of mounting concern with the redefined "peoples lottery". Culture secretary Chris Smith announced this week that the sixth good cause of health, education and environment will be siphoning off money by next spring. The five current Lottery distribution bodies have called for the new fund to be capped at the 1 billion already announced, in order to mitigate the damage to their plans. Meanwhile the Arts Council still does not have a permanent replacement as Secretary General for Mary Allen, who left in May to run the Royal Opera House.

The return of Damn Yankees has been cancelled. When the show ended its run at the Adelphi the plan was for it to reopen at the Victoria Palace, but it was later switched to the Savoy. A British cast was being rehearsed to work with Jerry Lewis, but there were persistent rumours of money problems and company wages failing to arrive on time.

Faction seems to be the new vogue for the West End. Hot on the heels of HRH at the Playhouse, the previously mentioned production of Hugh Whitemore's new play A Letter Of Resignation comes to the Comedy Theatre on 20th October. It concerns events leading up to the resignation of Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister. Edward Fox heads a cast which includes Clare Higgins, Julian Wadham, John Warnaby and Doreen Andrew. Triumph Proscenium is the producer and Christopher Morahan the director.

As its contribution to the French Theatre Season, the Royal Shakespeare Company will present two Samuel Beckett programmes at The Other Place from 22nd October. Entitled Beckett Shorts, the six short plays directed by Katie Mitchell, will include Juliet Stevenson in Footfalls, and Nigel Cooke in Embers, That Time and A Piece Of Monologue.

On 13th October Miss Saigon will play its 2,718th performance in New York, and join Broadway's top ten longest running musicals, replacing My Fair Lady. The list will then be: 1 Cats, 2 A Chorus Line, 3 Oh! Calcutta, 4 Les Miserables, 5 The Phantom Of The Opera, 6 42nd Street, 7 Grease, 8 Fiddler On The Roof, 9 Hello, Dolly!, 10 Miss Saigon. It's amazing that four of the shows are British, and are still running. Of course they have a long way to go before they rival the longest running musical in the world, The Fantasticks, which has been running Off Broadway in New York since 1960.

The government's commitment to training and education is definitely producing results. The Santa School Of Excellence has been set up to provide coaching in the art of being Father Christmas, by J H Promotions in Essex (where else). So all those performers who don't manage to find a panto - the only time of the year when some people do work - now have an alternative. Well it's one up from being a Coronation Programme seller.

On The Casting Couch: Griff Rhys Jones leads in The Front Page at the Donmar Warehouse; Kevin Whatley, Teresa Banham Greg Hicks and Sheila Reid star in Snake In The Grass at The Old Vic; Jim Dale returns as Fagin to complete the run of Oliver! at the Palladium; Richard Briers joins Geraldine McEwan in the Royal Court production of The Chairs; and Nigel Havers, Ron Cook and Malcolm Storry take over in Art at Wyndhams.