News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th January 2002

Shockheaded Peter, the 'junk opera' based on Heinrich Hoffmann's gothic children's cautionary tale Struwwelpeter, but given a Rocky Horror style workover, will return to the West End at the Albery Theatre on 4th April. Cultural Industry's combination of puppetry, music and narrative drive, features Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Graeme Gilmour, Tamzin Griffin and Jo Pocock, with David Thomas and Two Pale Boys performing the music and lyrics of Martyn Jacques and The Tiger Lillies. It is directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch.

Following its Work In Progress (but nevertheless sell out) appearance at the BAC Opera - The Works season last summer, Richard Thomas Jerry Springer: The Opera returns to Battersea Arts Centre in a full production from 5th to 23rd February. The entire gamut of extreme guests make their confessions in song. Stewart Lee contributed to the book and directs.

The Society for Theatre Research is inviting applications for this year's Awards, with 5000 available to winners for research into the history and practice of British theatre. The Society has made grants of over 55,000 since the scheme started in 1988. There are no restrictions on the status or nationality of the applicants, but the research must be associated with British theatre. The deadline for applications is 1st February. For further information contact the STR at the Theatre Museum.

Bernard Pomerance's The Elephant Man will open at the Royale Theatre in New York on 14th April, starring Billy Crudup and Kate Burton (and possibly Rupert Graves), directed by Sean Mathais. ACT Productions are co-producing with Wax & Williams and aim to bring the production to London. The play tells the story of the deformed John Merrick who was rescued from a freak show by a doctor at the London Hospital and became a prominent figure in Victorian society. Although the play premiered at Hampstead Theatre and was subsequently staged by the National it has never had a West End run.

Sandi Toksvig and Dillie Keane are collaborating on Big Night Out at the little palace theatre, a play with music which will receive its premiere at the Palace Theatre Watford from 19th June to 6th July. When two usherettes find that their historic theatre (long since given over to films) is to be demolished, they resort to desperate means trying to ensure its survival. This is the final production before the Palace closes for refurbishment. Artistic director Lawrence Till directs.

An exhibition of over 200 poster and book jacket designs by Polish illustrator, animator, graphic artist and film maker Andrzej Klimowski is being held in the Lyttelton Foyer of the National Theatre until 9th February. Klimowski, now resident in London, is best known for his use of collage, to create "a world full of psychological tensions and suspense, where daily life and theatre, realism and surrealism, and reality and dreams collide".

Giles Brandreth and Stewart Nicholls have devised Zipadeedooda!, which does for musical theatre what the Reduced Shakespeare Company does for the Bard. Over 100 of the best and worst songs from the shows are condensed into 100 minutes, including the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber in 90 seconds. Following a try out last summer the show launches a regional tour at Palace Theatre Westcliff on 23rd January. It is directed by Steven Dexter and produced by Green & Lenagan and Norwell Lapley Associates.

Its deja vu all over again for John Mortimer's satirical courtroom drama Naked Justice starring Leslie Phillips. It received its world premiere starting a pre West End tour in January last year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds. Now here it is again claiming another premiere starting a pre West End tour on 8th February at Birmingham Rep. Previous co-star Anna Carteret and director Christopher Morahan are missing presumed lost, as the director is now Richard Cottrell, but producer Triumph Entertainment remains. A 17 year old who had a motive and the deceased's blood on his clothes is accused of murder, and since the police have his confession, the trial seems a foregone conclusion - but clearly with this play nothing can be taken for granted.

The great and the good who received an invitation to a farewell bash for Rupert Rhymes, the out-going chief executive of the Society Of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association, at the Old Vic on 18th January, found it came with a sting in the tail. They were invited to RSVP on a cheque. Rhymes, who received an OBE in the New Year honours, suggested setting up a bursary, administered by the Theatre Investment Fund, to help a future theatre producer or manager at the start of their career. Guests are cordially invited to pay up and look big.

A Dutch musical about Princess Grace of Monaco has its sights set on Broadway and the West End. Currently playing (in Dutch) at the specially built Grace Theatre in Amsterdam, the show has three Broadway veterans involved - the music is by Cy Coleman, Patricia Birch is the choreographer and Eugene Lee is the set designer. The book and lyrics are by Seth Gaaikema, and the director is Frans Weisz (both locals). The fictional plot centres on Grace Kelly's dilemma choosing between the two most important men in her life, when having given up acting and married Prince Rainier, Alfred Hitchcock attempts to persuade her to return to Hollywood to resume her career and work with him.

The Rumour Machine says: that on the plane from Hollywood are Frances McDormand and Willem Dafoe to appear in the Wooster Group production of To You The Birdie (or Phedre Revisited), a contemporary reworking of Racine by Paul Schmidt, presented in May by the London International Festival of Theatre and the Old Vic. So at least some film folk have conquered their fear of flying - although they may think they're coming to shooting a movie as the production will be at the Riverside Studios. The Rumour Machine grinds on.