News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th August 2000

The previously mentioned production of Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman starring Greta Scacchi and Michael Pennington will open at the Albery Theatre on 11th October. It is the story of an obsessive and jealous actor who disguises himself as a guardsman and attempts to test his wife's fidelity. The production also features Nickolas Grace, Georgina Hale, Laura Macaulay, Jacqueline Skarvellis and Tim Faulkner. It is directed by Janet Suzman and produced by Paddy Wilson.

The Arts Theatre, which was relaunched a month ago with a new Anglo-American management team as a centre for new writing, has announced that its opening attraction will be the transfer of a regional production of a twenty year old play. Julian Mitchell's Another Country, which centres on the rebellion of two pupils at a boys public school in the 1930's will open on 20th September, following a season at Oxford Playhouse. The director is Stephen Henry and the producers are Phil Cameron for Background Productions and Guy Chapman Productions.

In the continued pursuit of accessibility the Department of Culture has plans for a web site - Culture Online - which would ultimate display the wares of all the publicly funded arts organisation in Britain. Having invested over 1bn of Lottery generated funds in galleries and museums, the Department wants their collections to be available to everyone, despite the severe strains on these institutions which this would impose. The British Library is currently seeking commercial partners to fund the digitisation of its collection of 150 million items. Having swallowed the visual arts, Culture Online would then move on to webcasts of performances from subsidised theatres, concert halls and opera houses. 5m is currently being spent developing the plans which would ultimately see 150m spent on their execution. As the BBC becomes a more commercially oriented organisation and marginalises its arts coverage, Culture Online might take over its public service broadcasting remit - with funding diverted from the receipts of the television licence fee.

The Oxford Stage Company has announced a tour of two new productions starting in October. Somerset Maugham's The Circle is a comedy of manners set in the 1920s, revealing the emotional double standards of two generations of a family prominent in public life. Billy Roche's The Wexford Trilogy, comprising Belfry, A Handful Of Stars and Poor Beast In The Rain, tells of the small-town life in Wexford through the characters that haunt the snooker clubs and betting shops. Wilson Milam directs. It will play a two month season at the Tricycle Theatre from 6th December.

Cirque du Soleil has confirmed that its latest show Quidam is to play in a 2500 seater tent from 15th December to 7th January, claiming that its usual venue, the Royal Albert Hall is too small. Having been denied permission to pitch in Hyde Park, it will be located at Battersea Power Station, where the company will set up a permanent London home in a purpose built theatre if the current development plans go ahead.

The National Theatre has joined partners in Ireland, Germany and Italy to create a web site which gives prospective thespians a glimpse behind the scenes of a working theatre. There are contributions from all the different departments involved in production, from design and construction to marketing and box office, explaining their part in the process. Students in ten organisations in each of the participating countries will be set challenges relating to the particular discipline which interests them. There is a bulletin board to facilitate international student co-operation. The site is called Acquis and can be found via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.

Yasmina Reza's Conversations After A Burial translated by Christopher Hampton, which centres on the revelations that follow a father's death, opens at the Almeida Theatre on 12th September. It features Claire Bloom, Amanda Root, David Calder, Clare Holman, Matthew Marsh and Paul Higgins, and is directed by Howard Davies. It will be followed by Theatre de Complicite's latest production Light on 27th October. Adapted by Simon McBurney and Matthew Broughton from a novel by Swedish writer Torgny Lindgren, it tells of a man who returns to his village with a plague-ridden rabbit and the ramifications on the community of the subsequent spread of disease. It is devised by the company which includes Bronagh Gallagher, Roger Lloyd Pack and Toby Sedgwick and directed by Simon McBurney.

Others try out in Boston, but Jackie Mason continues his policy of playing a pre Broadway season in London, with his new show Up Close And Personal. The unusual thing is the venue, as he will be in Covent Garden's Linbury Studio from 15th to 19th August. This really is making the Royal Opera House more accessible.

It took a long while for the audience participation showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to spawn the karaoke Sing-A-Long-A Sound Of Music events, which are currently touring the country, but now they're coming thick and fast (you decide which is which). Mary Poppins is currently the rage in Los Angeles, as audiences are invited to join in singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and ape Dick Van Dyke's "cockney" accent. Meanwhile in London, Grease is expected to be given the treatment next month - although Saturday Night Fever has greater wardrobe potential. Details of the world wide tour dates of Sing-A-Long-A Sound Of Music can be found via the link from the Shows section of TheatreNet.

Memoirs Of A Ninja, the world's first martial arts musical comedy, is playing a world premiere season at the Secret Rose Theatre in Los Angeles. Book and lyrics are by Keisuke Hoashi, who also stars, music is by Brian Lewis, and Derek Chin directs. The plot concerns a group of ninjas who seek more peaceful pursuits than the brutal plans for world domination espoused by their evil leader Xix'ian Ju. One ninja wants to be a gourmet pastry chef while another yearns to star in a Broadway musical.

The pre London tour of the National Theatre production of Simon Russell Beale's Hamlet, directed by John Caird, is to include a week at the Hamlet Summer Festival at Elsinore in Denmark from 14th August. It will be performed in the open air in the courtyard of Kronborg Castle, the actual setting of the play. John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier are among the previous visiting British Hamlets. The cast also includes Cathryn Bradshaw, Sara Kestelman, Peter McEnery and Dennis Quilley. It reaches the South Bank on 5th September.

The Rumour Machine says: that the surge from screen to stage continues, with former child star Macaulay Culkin playing a "Graduate" style role in Richard Nelson's Madame Melville alongside a French film name in the title role, coming to the West End in October, and Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Natalie Portman in Checkov's The Seagull directed by Mike Nichols in New York next summer. The Rumour Machine grinds on.