News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th September 1998

The fallout from the Peter Hall/Bill Kenwright fallout has begun. Ken Campbell's Pidgin Macbeth which premiered recently at the National Theatre, will open at the Piccadilly Theatre on 9th October, and play in repertoire with Filumena which opens on 8th October. The previously announced production of Much Ado About Nothing, which was the final production of the season in November, may be dropped in favour of Alan Bennett's comedy Kafka's Dick, featuring Eric Sykes who was to have played Dogberry. This would be the first West End revival of Bennett's play since the original production in 1986.

The previously mentioned UK premiere of the Broadway production Jackie: An American Life will open at the Queens Theatre on 22nd October - once the building has been deloused after The Lady Boys Of Bangkok have departed. It is a revue style show, taking a satirical look at mania surrounding the life of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, written and directed by Gip Hoppe. Lysette Anthony will play Jackie. Cole Kitchenn are general managers for Peter Schwarz, the original American producer.

A charity called Vocaleyes, whose aim is to provide live audio description of theatre performances for visually impaired people, is being launched on 17th September, with a demonstration of the technique at the Young Vic Theatre. It will operate a national programme with six productions in its launch season. Performances scheduled so far include Buddy on 17th October and 12th December, and Annie on 28th October and 8th December. Arts Council and Lottery funding will back the launch, but Vocaleyes must become self sufficient within three years. Further details are available from Lucinda Harvey on 0171 450 1990. There are links to Artsline, which provides an information and advice service for disabled people on London's arts and entertainment, and the National Disability Arts Forum from our Organisations section.

Nigel Hawthorne is to join the Royal Shakespeare Company to play King Lear, directed by Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa, whose production of Hamlet has just been at the Barbican Theatre. It will open in Tokyo next summer and move to the Barbican in October. Other major names are expected to join the production. Following his unhappy brush with the National Theatre, Antony Sher is returning to the RSC. This is reportedly in an unusual doubling of roles - Leontes and Autolycus in The Winter's Tale - opening in Stratford at Christmas, and moving to the Barbican in April.

There seems to be a rash of millionaire property developers fighting against all odds to build chamber opera houses, having been shunned by the opera establishment, representing the third theatre mask (you know: comedy, tragedy and snobbery). Martin Graham, who started life as a builder's labourer, is looking for a suitable site for a 700 seater venue in central London, after been rebuffed by the Covent Garden board. Christopher Buxton, has revised his 10 year old plans to a for an opera house at Compton Verney in Warwickshire to 400 seats, having been refused Lottery funding for a more ambitious scheme. The Barings Bank family's plans for a 370 seat venue at Northington Hall in Hampshire, owned by English Heritage, have been held up by opposition from local residents. Opera certainly arouses passions.

Sooty is to hit the West End! After many Christmas seasons on the Fringe at the Bloomsbury Theatre, he is to play four weeks of matinees at the Savoy Theatre from 15th December to 9th January, as a guest of E&B Productions. Assuming it survives the notices, Boogie Nights will continue in the evenings.

The finalists in this year's Vivian Ellis Prize, to be showcased at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 1st October, are: Bill + Ted's Musical Adventure by Gene Jefferson Kane, Mick Walsh and Dean Collinson; Chinasong by Gary Carpenter and Simon Nicholson; Dearly Beloved by Tim Higgs and Robert Styles; It's A Wonderful Life by Stephen Nimmons; and Sensation by Alex Loveness. The Judging panel includes Joel Grey, Gale Edwards, Charles Strouse, Jeremy Sams, Anthony Drewe, Dan Crawford and Jonathan Simon, chaired by Don Black. It is open to the public and tickets priced 10 are available from Stoll Moss Theatres, via the link to the right of this column.

Andrew Welch, who joined Chichester Festival Theatre in January, to help mastermind a recovery programme for this season, has signed a three year contract. There has been a positive start. So far this year has seen 11,500 new attenders buying 34,500 tickets. Loot has transferred to the West End, Racing Demon is touring to Toronto, and the Minerva production of the musical Song Of Singapore is sold out for the rest of its run. But it hasn't been all good news, with Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Chimes At Midnight receiving a critical pasting.

TheatreNet recently received a glowing recommendation from the BBC Online Web Guide ( "a marvellous service . . . an encyclopaedic site . . . very easy to navigate and well presented". Naturally we're very pleased, but you don't remain Number One by resting on your laurels. Is there anything that we're not doing, that you would like us to? Or anything we're doing, that you don't like? Let me know ( - and I'll do exactly as I see fit!