News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 3rd November 2000

Following their recent return to television, Thunderbirds are go on stage again, as Thunderbirds F.A.B, the show which was seen in the West End in the mid 90's, is also back. The entertainment which apes the famous puppets, created by and featuring Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson, will open on 29th November at the Playhouse Theatre. As before, the show will be in a double bill with Space Panorama, a solo mime performed by Dawson depicting the landing of Apollo 11. This show marks another chapter in the tangled history of the Playhouse. Owner Patrick Sulaiman has ended the management contract with ACT Productions, and returned to direct in house control under Sarah Overend, who has joined on a five year contract. Despite Overend's arrival the venue apparently remains on the market.

Thirty two cinemas have been given listed building status by the Department of Culture, and the status of eight others has been upgraded. Star turn is the Granada Tooting dating from 1931, which is listed Grade I - the first cinema to be granted such status. It was the creation of Sidney Bernstein, and was designed in spectacular Shakespearean Gothic style by Theodore Komisarjevsky. It boasts a giant auditorium adorned with ornate arches, niches and paintings, a baronial style foyer and a seemingly unending Hall of Mirrors, cribbed from a French Monastery. The oldest remaining cinema in the UK, the Phoenix East Finchley which dates from 1910, is listed Grade II. Both buildings are regular features of London Open House, the annual scheme to allow the public into architecturally interesting buildings which takes place in September.

Horror writer Stephen King is returning to the musical stage, apparently undaunted by the debacle that was Carrie: The Musical. The adaptation of his novel (and the film which followed) was one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's biggest ever disasters. The subsequent Broadway production lost 5m in 1988 (when that was a lot of money), closing after just 5 performances. King is now working with singer John Mellencamp on a story which features singing ghosts. The premise is that two mutually loathing brothers are taken to a remote cabin by their father, who it transpires, had two mutually loathing older brothers who killed each other in the cabin years earlier. The score will contain a variety of musical styles from rap to country. As they say in a show investment prospectus: "Caution - investment in theatrical production is hazardous."

Bryony Lavery has adapted Kate Atkinson's award winning novel Behind The Scenes At The Museum for the stage. Telling the trans-generational story of a seriously dysfunctional family in York, it is appropriately receiving its premiere at Theatre Royal York until 18th November. Damian Cruden directs Katherine Dow Blyton, Emma Aston and Joanne Heywood as the sisters, with Meriel Schofield, Mark Stratton and Olwen May.

Jujamcyn Theatres, the third largest Broadway theatre chain, will have to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars after a successful challenge from the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers. Since 1997 Jujamcyn has added a $1 surcharge to all ticket sales for shows in its five theatres, which it claimed was a "restoration fee", to be invested in the refurbishment of the buildings. The surcharge, estimated to have amounted to over $2m so far, has never been included in the weekly gross box office receipts on which creative team royalties are based. The SSD&C claimed it was a deliberate attempt to increase receipts at the expense of its members, and has been trying to recover their dues for the last two years. In a final (and retrospective) arbitration ruling it has now won the argument, and so the fee must be included in the gross. Other creative unions representing writers and designers are now expected to lodge similar claims.

The British Library is staging an exhibition about the life and work of Oscar Wilde running from 10th November to 4th February. It comprises manuscripts, printed editions, photographs, paintings, theatre posters and programmes, sound recordings (including Wilde himself), newspapers and memorabilia. In addition to material from the Library's collections there are items from family and private archives, including the recently discovered love letters from Wilde to his wife Constance, which are on display for the first time. There are accompanying events including talks, performances and films of Wilde's work, as well as a schools programme. Full details can be found on the British Library web site via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.

The first round awards of a bursary to help aspiring theatre producers to develop or present a new production have been announced. The Theatre Investment Fund and Society Of London Theatre have made awards to help develop and workshop productions to: Dominic Madden for Faithful Dealing and Matthew Byam Shaw for In Flame, Humble Boy and The Servant, which will open at the Lyric Hammersmith next year. Ed Higginson will receive a bursary award for several new plays and Richard Jordan for developing new productions on commercial tours. Thelma Holt chairs the assessment panel of Michael Billington, David Pugh and Isobel Hawson. There will be another round in the spring, the closing date for applications for which has still to be confirmed.

Media cross fertilisation is in the air this week. The Ambassador Theatre Group, the West End and regional theatre operator, is to form a new production unit with Natural Nylon Ltd, the film company set up by Ewan McGregor, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Sean Pertwee and Johnny Lee Miller. Their aim is to develop both stage and film projects. Meanwhile Tiger Aspect, the television and film production company, is joining forces with stage producer Gwenael Allan Productions. The two way aim is to develop stage versions of TA's catalogue, and television specials featuring GAP's stage productions including De La Guarda and Russian clown Slava Polumin. Entirely new stage projects are not expected to be forthcoming during the first phase of their relationship.

The Almeida Theatre's temporary "out of building experience" in the former King's Cross coach station will start in March with the production of Wedekind's Lulu starring Anna Friel which was deposed from the Old Vic. The season will also include Platonov, David Hare's completion of an early unfinished work by Anton Chekhov, and a play by Brian Friel.

The Rumour Machine says: that Simon Callow is working with composer Glen Roven on a musical based on the Dr Seuss story The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr T which he will direct for Broadway; that the RSC production of The Secret Garden will transfer to the Aldwych Theatre when its Stratford run ends; and that the producer of Michael Blakemore's current Broadway revival of Kiss Me Kate is looking for a London theatre next year in which Marin Mazzie and Brian Stoke can recreate their roles. The Rumour Machine grinds on.