News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th February 2005

The National Theatre has announced its new season. In the Olivier: Henry IV Parts 1 And 2, with Michael Gambon, Matthew Macfadyen, David Bradley, John Wood and John Carlisle; The UN Inspector, a contemporary take on Gogol's The Government Inspector, adapted and directed by David Farr; and the premiere of Playing With Fire by David Edgar, about contemporary domestic politics and multi-culturalism. In the Lyttelton: a stage adaptation of the film Theatre Of Blood, by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott (who also directs), about an actor who exacts revenge on his critics, with Jim Broadbent, Rachael Stirling and Sally Dexter, co-produced with Improbable Theatre; Brian Friel's Aristocrats, directed by Tom Cairns; Martin Crimp's Attempts On Her Life, directed by Katie Mitchell; a new show by physical theatre company DV8, Just For Show; Ibsen's Ghosts, in a new version by Nicholas Wright, directed by Jonathan Kent. In the Cottesloe: Kneehigh Theatre Company's Tristan And Yseult, a contemporary version of the story of a king who falls in love with his enemy's sister, adapted and directed by Emma Rice; and the premieres of Simon Stephens's On The Shore Of The Wide World, about three generations of a family in today's Stockport, directed by Sarah Frankcom, a co-production with the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester; Howard Brenton's Paul, directed by Howard Davies; Samuel Adamson's Southwark Fair, set on the South Bank, directed by Nicholas Hytner; President Of An Empty Room, the first play by Steven Knight (creator of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?); and an untitled work by Mike Leigh, developed improvisationally with the cast, which includes Adam Godley, Samantha Spiro, John Burgess, Ben Caplan, Allan Corduner and Caroline Gruber.

Simon Mendes da Costa's Losing Louis, with Lynda Bellingham, Anita Briem, Emma Cunniffe, Jason Durr, David Horovitch, Brian Protheroe and Alison Steadman will transfer from the beleaguered Hampstead Theatre to the Trafalgar Studios from 23rd February. The comedy, in which events from the past and present interweave at a family reunion, is directed by Robin Lefevre, and presented by Michael Codron.

The West End had one of its best years ever in 2004. Revenue was the highest ever at 341m, 6% up on 2003, with attendances the second highest at 11,938,999m, a 3% rise on the previous year. Musicals sold 7.3m tickets, unchanged from last year, and drama almost 3m, up 3%, with opera, dance, comedy and entertainment totalling 1.6m. The figures are from the Society Of London Theatre's independently conducted Box Office Data Survey, covering 52 central London West End commercial and major subsidised venues. The figures are partially boosted by the fact that 2004 was a '53 week reporting year' running from 30th December 2003 to 1st January 2005.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is celebrating entering its tenth year at the Criterion Theatre by taking a vacation from 3rd April to 31st May, during which time they plan to develop a new show, The Complete Hollywood (abridged). In their place will come Amajuba - Like Doves We Rise, seen recently at the Barbican Theatre. Conceived and written by director Yael Farber, in collaboration with the cast of five, this is an intimate portrayal of growing up in apartheid South Africa, weaving together personal accounts of township upbringing, through spoken word, mime and song, both traditional and newly composed.

The Abbey Road Studios, where some of the greatest rock and pop recordings of all time have been made, is opening its doors to the public for the first time. To mark the 25th anniversary of its involvement in the film scoring business, it is staging the Abbey Road Film Festival, running from 19th March to 3rd April. Studio 1 will become a 350 seater cinema, showing a selection of films associated with Abbey Road, while Studio 2 will house a photographic exhibition, with treasures from the worlds of film and music. Screenings will range from A Hard Day's Night and Backbeat to Lord Of The Rings and The Last Emperor. Further information can be found on the Abbey Road Studios web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Following its previous relaunch - which lasted for just one night - the Shaw Theatre is to host a cabaret season Musical Ladies And Gentlemen Of The Stage, featuring the veteran American group The Four Freshmen, from 26th April to 1st May; Janie Dee from 4th to 8th May; American jazz singer Blossom Dearie from 10th to 15th May; and Ron Moody from 24th to 29th May. The season is presented by Barry J Mishon in association with Off West End Theatres.

Patti Boulaye's Sun Dance, written by Patti Boulaye, directed by Dougie Squires, with choreography by Martin Boothe, Mabusi Gumode, Lydia Olet and Rashida Plummer, will premiere at the Hackney Empire from 18th May to 25th June. Performed by a cast of 36 dancers, singers and musicians, the show celebrates the music, legends and folklore of Africa, with a display of ceremonial dances, rituals and initiation ceremonies, accompanied by African drums. Prior to this, the theatre returns to its music hall roots - which featured Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and George Formby - with Saturday Night At The Empire, a series of comedy bills featuring today's (and tomorrow's) stand up stars, including John Hegley, Men in Coats, Nina Conti, Tim Vine, Phil Kay, Brendon Burns, Hattie Hayridge, Jo Brand, Jackie Clune and Galye Tuesday.

Shoestring Shakespeare, a new company whose aim is to present the work of young professional actors to young audiences, will perform Romeo And Juliet, directed by Kirrie Wratten, in the candle lit crypt of the Guild Church of St. Andrew in Holborn Circus, from 3rd to 19th March. It will be a promenade production and members of the audience will be invited to participate in the action, taking sides with the warring Montagues or Capulets, and following the actors as the action moves through the four underground vaults.

Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, has spoken about freedom of artistic expression following Birmingham Repertory Theatre's shameful cancellation of Behzti, and the BBC's transmission of Jerry Springer - The Opera, following orchestrated protests from religious groups: "I claim unequivocally the right to be as offensive as I choose and, on behalf of my colleagues, to tell any story we choose. In modern society nobody has the right not to be offended."

The Rumour Machine says: that Terry Johnson will direct Christian Slater and an as yet unsigned American co-star in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, about an ageing film star's relationship with a gigolo, opening (possibly at the Gielgud Theatre) in late September; and that Cyrano, a musical version of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn, will premiere in London in the spring of next year, possibly starring Douglas Sills, produced by Bill Kenwright. The Rumour Machine grinds on.