News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 4th December 1998

Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, who starred together in the film The Goodbye Girl, will team up again for the West End premiere of Neil Simon's The Prisoner Of Second Avenue. The play, which originally ran on Broadway in 1971, tells the story of a Manhattan man who loses his job, and grows increasingly frustrated with life at home. There will be a five week tour, followed by a twenty week season at the Haymarket Theatre, opening at the end of April. The producer is Duncan Weldon.

The National Theatre did the double in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, with Michael Frayn's Copenhagen winning Best Play, and Trevor Nunn's production of Oklahoma! winning Best Musical. As forecast here last week, Copenhagen will transfer to the Duchess Theatre on 5th February, with the original cast of David Burke, Sara Kestleman and Matthew Marsh. The director is Michael Blakemore, and the producer is Michael Codron. Oklahoma! reopens at the Lyceum Theatre on 21st January, and is booking until 26th June. It is possible that this may be extended, as the opening of The Lion King has been put back until October.

Alan Bates, who withdrew from the current National Theatre production of Antony And Cleopatra due to a leg injury, is returning to the Royal Shakespeare Company to tackle the role. This time Bates will be opposite Frances de la Tour, directed by Stephen Pimlott. He will also play Timon Of Athens, directed by Greg Dolan, in a six month season at Stratford from March.

Following a year long feasibility study, the latest in the long line of development plans for the Roundhouse at Chalk Farm has been unveiled by local millionaire Torquil Norman. It is to become a creative centre for young people in music, film, theatre, broadcasting and fashion - not bad for a tumble down Victorian engine shed. There will be a new glass portico forming the entrance, the undercroft will become studios and workshops, and there is to be a new performance and meeting area called The Lid, above the main auditorium. Norman, who is responsible for bringing the building back into theatrical use (it is currently housing Stomp) has committed 6.2m of his own to the project, and is looking for 21m lottery funding to enable its completion. The question is, will he succeed where the other plans of the last thirty years have failed?

China Song, one of the joint winners of this year's Vivian Ellis Prize, premieres at the Drum Theatre Plymouth on 28th January, prior to a short tour. It is a contemporary adaptation of Hans Andersen's The Nightingale, with book and lyrics by Simon Nicholson and music by Gary Carpenter. The story concerns the Emperor of China's search for the ultimate toy, during which he finds a nightingale who changes his life. The director is Annie Castledine and the producer is Clear Day Productions.

Standby for a year of Cowardmania, as Noel Coward centennial celebrations kick off with the Queen Mother unveiling a bust of Coward in the foyer of Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 8th December. A production of his "lost " play Songs At Twilight will be staged at the King's Head in January. The cast will include Corin Redgrave, Kika Markham and Nyree Dawn Porter, directed by Sheridan Morley. Other events will include a gala at Drury Lane next autumn, staged by Gillian Lynne.

The rift between Bill Kenwright and Peter Hall has put paid to plans for Jessica Lang and Madonna's West End appearances next year. Instead, Peter Hall will go to Broadway, to direct Eli Wallach in Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's The Visitor, adapted by Jeremy Sams. The play, which is set in Nazi Germany, opens at the Barrymore Theatre on 11th March.

Donmar Warehouse will stage Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing in June, directed by David Leveaux. The original production of this tragi-comedy, which contrasts the complexity of real love with its simplistic representation in art, won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1984.

On The Casting Couch: Sheila Hancock, Ron Cook, Debra Gillett, Aisling O'Sullivan, David Tennant and Adrian Scarborough will be in Vassa at the Albery from 14th January; and Rufus Sewell and Sally Dexter will be joined by Martin Marquez, Simon Chandler, Declan Conlon, Billy Carter, Robert Patterson, Simon Meacock, Robin McCaffrey, Polly Pritchett and Peter Bayliss in Macbeth at the Queens from 24th February.

Stephen Daldry's diplomacy skills have triumphed again at the Royal Court Theatre. The Jerwood Foundation offered a solution to the 3.3m hole in its finances, caused by rebuilding delays, but only if Jerwood became part of its name, and the Queen wasn't having that. The dilemma has been resolved by a "National Theatre style" solution of naming the auditoria separately from the building. Thus it will be the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs/Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre. With his track record of schmooze, can it be long before Daldry joins the government?

The Rumour Machine says: that the pulling power of Ewan McGregor is sufficient to see a West End transfer for Denis Lawson's Hampstead Theatre production of David Halliwell's Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs. Despite the mixed reviews, many of which questioned the quality of the play, tickets have been changing hands at an even higher price than for the last filmstarfest The Blue Room, which also was perhaps not the best quality writing seen on the London stage this year. Producer Robert Fox is negotiating for a theatre, with an opening night on 18th January for an eight week season. The Rumour Machine grinds on.