News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 5th July 2002

The National Theatre production of Nicholas Wright's Vincent In Brixton is to transfer directly to Wyndham's Theatre at the end of its run on 27th July. It currently stars Dutch actor Jochum ten Haaf in the title role, alongside Clare Higgins, Emily Blunt, Emma Handy and Paul Nicholls, and is directed by Richard Eyre. The play is based on actual events in Vincent Van Gogh's early life in London, when he worked for an international art dealer, and rented a room in the house of a widow in Brixton, and is about the transforming effect of love, sex and artistic adventure on unformed talent.

Booking is now open for this year's Edinburgh International Festival, which runs from 11th to 31st August. Among the highlights will be: Wagner's Parsifal staged by Peter Stein, with Claudio Abbado conducting the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester; Canadian Opera Company's production of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex With Symphony Of Psalms, directed by Francois Girard; world premieres of Variety by Douglas Maxwell, performed by the Grid Iron Theatre Company, chronicling the death throes of variety theatre in Scotland, directed by Ben Harrison, and Norwegian writer Jon Fosse's The Girl On The Sofa, directed by Thomas Ostermeier; The Vienna Burgtheater production of Schiller's Maria Stuart; Jan Fabre's new production of Swan Lake, performed by The Royal Ballet of Flanders; Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara's company KARAS performing Luminous, fusing pure dance, stagecraft, technology and music; and a series of 25 late night classical music concerts at only 5 for every seat. Further information and booking can be found on the EIF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Low-tech may have finally conquered one of the biggest threats to theatregoing. Despite the announcement four years ago of an electronic device that would enable theatres to jam the airwaves so that mobile phone calls could not be made or received, the menace has continued. Now a Japanese university has come up with what they claim is the solution - plywood! A new process sandwiches particles of magnetic nickel-zinc ferrite between layers of wood, which block microwave signals rendering the phones useless. If doors and panelling in theatres were made of the material the menace could be a thing of the past. Clearly the current practice of asking people to turn phones off doesn't work and some radical solution is needed. Of course, if people were required to check phones at the door (like guns in a wild west saloon) it would not only solve the problem, but could provide great after show entertainment for everyone else, if the phones were just dumped in a pile and the owners had to scrabble about trying to decide which was which.

On The Casting Couch: Sarah Wildor will play the downtrodden housewife in the "Did You Move?" section, and Michael Praed will play the suicidal advertising executive who sees the woman in the yellow dress in the main section of Contact at the Queen's Theatre on 23rd October; and Samantha Bond will join Sean Bean in Macbeth at the Albery Theatre on 14th November.

Hollywood resident British comedy writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are writing the book of a musical about Helen of Troy, with music and lyrics by Brian Johnson and Brendan Healy, which will be staged by Robert de Warren. Among those floated for the role of Zeus (who will be the show's narrator) are Malcolm McDowell and Jerry Springer. The show will premiere in Sarastota, Florida next year. In the past Florida has seen a number of 'Broadway Bound' musical projects make their one and only appearance.

Alan Ayckbourn's Damsels In Distress trilogy, which premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough last summer, starts a prospective pre West End tour at Milton Keynes Theatre on 22nd July. GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay (Ayckbourn's 58th, 59th and 60th plays), feature one group of actors, in three separate comedies, that share the same set - a luxury Docklands apartment. Robert Austin, Saskia Butler, Bill Champion, Tim Faraday, Jacqueline King, Alison Parageter and Beth Tuckey return to their original roles. Ayckbourn directs, and the tour is presented by Michael Codron, Lee Dean, Michael Linnit, Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian.

Sam Mendes valedictory Donmar double header of Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night is to transfer to the Brooklyn Academy of Music following the London run. The cast line up now comprises David Bradley, Helen McRory, Simon Russell Beale, Mark Strong and Emily Watson, although they may not all be available for New York. Other Donmar productions heading stateside are David Mamet's Boston Marriage, opening at the Public Theatre in the autumn, and Christopher Hampton's Tales From Hollywood.

The Stage Management Association has an ongoing training programme aimed at stage managers wishing to update or enhance their skills. Upcoming one or two day courses, which are open to non members, include Score Reading, Company Management, Pay Roll, Relighting, and Health and Safety. Further information can be found on the SMA web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that despite the dust up over The Producers, Henry Goodman may return to Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Moliere's Tartuffe in December; that thanks to the interest in West End cameo appearances spreading like wildfire through Hollywood, Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth may return to London with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire; that Frank Gorshin may go to Broadway in October with Say Goodnight Gracie: The Love, Laughter and Life Of George Burns, a one-man bio-show by Rupert Holmes about the legendary comedian; and that Fox Broadcasting is planning a new (and revised) television version of The Rocky Horror Show, directed by Stephen Elliott, to be broadcast next February, on the show's 30th birthday. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . There is talk of Billie Piper playing the title role in a West End production of the musical The Diary Of Anne Frank. Does no one remember the apocryphal story of the production starring the diminutive Pia Zadora? As soon as the first German troops appeared the audience as one shouted: "She's in the attic!"