News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th April 2003

The Edinburgh International Festival has announced the full programme of over 170 performances in this year's event, running from 10th to 30th August, for which booking opens on 12th April. Dance highlights include: San Francisco Ballet with the world premiere of a work by British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon; Cullberg Ballet performing two highly theatrical modern ballets Home And Home by Johan Inger and Fluke by Mats Ek; Bordeaux Opera Ballet offering 20th century classics from the era of Les Ballets Russes; and Compagnie Francois Verret with cutting edge contemporary dance in Chantier-Musil. Theatre highlights include: Fiona Shaw, Jodhi May and Iain Glen in Chekhov's The Seagull directed by Peter Stein; the stage premiere of David Greig's San Diego; George Anton in Hamlet directed by Calixto Bieito; the world premiere of Tamasha Theatre Company's Strictly Dandia, and the Argentine company El Periferico de Objetos making its UK debut with The Last Night Of Mankind.

Opera highlights include: the first complete staging of Scottish Opera's Wagner Ring Cycle; concert performances of rare operas such as Handel's Poro and Amadigi, and Rossini's Zelmira; plus star performances in Verdi's Macbeth and Wagner's Lohengrin. The music programme takes in everything from the Korean vocal storytelling tradition Pansori to large scale orchestral and choral concerts; from French baroque music performed by Ian Bostridge and Emmanuelle Haim to contemporary music influenced by the traditions of China, Korea, India and Japan; the complete Beethoven String Quartets presented in chronological order; and recitals by Alfred Brendel, Andras Schiff, Grigory Sokolov and Thomas Quasthoff. Last year's experimental 5 Turn Up And Try It Tickets scheme has been extended to every event. A minimum of 50 seats at 5 will be available on the door from an hour before each performance. Full details and online ticketing can be found on the EIF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The production of Calamity Jane starring Toyah Willcox, which has been touring since last autumn, will open a three month season at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 18th June. A cowboy musical, with a remarkably similar plot to Annie Get Your Gun, it is directed by Ed Curtis and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood. The book is by Ronald Hanmer and Phil Park, adapted from the stage play by Charles K Freeman based on the 1953 film, with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

You don't see a play by Franz Xaver Kroetz for ages and then three come along at once. As the Southwark Playhouse production of Through The Leaves with Simon Callow and Ann Mitchell transfers to the Duchess Theatre, the Arcola Theatre presents two more. The Nest, in a new translation by David Schneider, with Robert Bowman and Elizabeth Hurran, directed by Elen Bowman, runs from 8th to 26th April. It examines the dilemma of a father who is tempted into wrongdoing in order to support his wife and new baby. On 28th April there will be a rehearsed reading by the Actors Touring Company of An End To Pairing, translated by Anthony Vivis, which charts an aging couple's violent descent into self destructive despair, directed by Gordon Anderson, for which tickets are free. This will be followed at the Arcola by Bertolt Brech and Kurt Weill's rarely seen Seven Deadly Sins Of The Petty Bourgeoisie, directed by Mehmet Ergen and choreographed by Gary Rowe, from 6th to 24th May. It tells the story of two sisters who leave their starving family in the Mississippi delta in search of a decent wage, moving from seedy cabaret joints to the bright lights of Hollywood.

It's Official! As previously forecast here Patrick Stewart will return to the British stage in Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder, joined by Sue Johnston, Edward De Souza, Lisa Dillion and Katherine Manners. Directed by Anthony Page, the production opens a pre West End tour at Malvern Theatre on 15th May. The play is the story of a renowned but aging builder obsessed with constructing tall spires, who fears the competition from his younger rivals. The producers are Duncan Weldon and Paul Elliott.

The ever-resourceful Watermill Theatre Newbury is touring its last production Gigolo, written and directed by Ade Morris, around the highways and byways of Berkshire and beyond. Glyn Dilly, Toni Midlane and Andrew Cryer star in the new comedy detailing the adventures of an out of work actor, his ex-girlfriend, and their cross dressing mutual friend, when the men start an escort agency in Stoke on Trent.

On The Casting Couch: Joan Plowright and Oliver Ford Davies will be joined by Brid Brennan, Sian Brooke, Anna Carteret, Darrell D'Silva, Gawn Grainger, Barry Stanton, Lolly Susi and Liza Tarbuck in Pirandello's Absolutely! (Perhaps), in a new version Martin Sherman, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, opening at Wyndham's Theatre on 20th May.

The Rumour Machine says: that Amanda Holden will star when the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, adapted from on the 1967 film, comes to the West End in the autumn; that despite the recent suggestion that Al Pacino may be West End bound in his upcoming Broadway production in Oscar Wilde's Salome, it is more likely to be at the National Theatre in a revival of last year's National Actors Theater production of Bertolt Brecht's Hitler gangster parody The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui, with Billy Crudup and Henry Goodman, directed by Simon McBurney; and that Andrew Hilton's much feted Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory company from Bristol may stage a six week season of their work at the Barbican in the autumn. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . Following its departure from the Barbican, and plans to demolish its landmark theatre in Stratford, the Royal Shakespeare Company is still coming up with half-baked initiatives on pursuit of 'accessibility' and 'reaching new audiences'. It is developing a computer game based on The Tempest with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which will allow players to take on the role of any of the characters, and change the outcome of the plot. The idea is to 'keep young people engaged with Shakespeare'. What the RSC has failed to realise is that people who play computer games lack the creative imagination and artistic sensitivity to appreciate (never mind rewrite) Shakespeare. If they didn't, they'd be out at the theatre, not stuck alone in their bedroom.

Opening This Week

The Madness Of George Dubya - ArtsJustin Butcher's topically amended anti-war farce, based on a contemporary updating of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 cold war black comedy film Dr Strangelove, transfers from the fringe.

Jus' Like That! - GarrickJerome Flynn stars as Tommy Cooper in John Fisher's behind the scenes autobiographical play about the comedian and magician, featuring many of his best known routines, set during Cooper's final performance in a televised variety programme. Directed by Simon Callow, with Geoffrey Durham as magic consultant.

Macbeth - Barbican TheatreTeatre Romea presents controversial Spanish director Calixto Bieito's apocalyptic and sexually explicit contemporary reworking of Shakespeare's bloody tragedy - more Italian American than Caledonian. Not for the squeamish. Performed in Spanish with English surtitles.

Scenes From The Big Picture - National CottesloeRegime change at the National kicks off with Owen McCafferty's new play about a very old subject - 24 hours in the life of Belfast. Do these wretched people really deserve all the attention that is paid to them parading their self-inflicted wounds?