News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 5th October 2001

The Society Of London Theatre has launched a free Kids Theatre Club in the West End, aimed at 8 to 12 year olds, run by West End professionals. Participants are given a chance to explore famous shows through games and improvisation. The club runs from 10am to 12noon every Saturday at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. There are 15 places available each week, which are allocated on a first come first served basis. Call 020 7943 4806 to book on Mondays to Thursdays between 9am and 5pm, and Fridays between 8.30am and 12.30pm. This initiative is allied to the annual Kids Week in the West End programme, designed to introduce young people to the theatregoing experience.

It's Official! - 1 The stage premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, adapted from the 1968 film, based on the books written by Ian Fleming, has been confirmed for the London Palladium on 16th April. The stage version is by Jeremy Sams, with new songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B Sherman to augment their film score. The story concerns a madcap inventor who delights in eccentric gadgets and restores an old car from a scrap heap with the help of his two children. The car develops magical properties, including the ability to fly. Adrian Noble will direct.

The National Theatre has announced its largest ever business sponsorship deal, with a two year 1.9m package from Barclays, for productions in its Olivier auditorium, beginning in November. Other cultural organisations to benefit from this Invest & Inspire initiative are the British Museum, the National Gallery and Tate Britain.

Despite originally being refused a licence to perform his mobile one man show at the Edinburgh Fringe on safety grounds, Benji Ming is hitting the West End (hopefully not literally). Ming performs to the passenger in his two seater Smart Car while he drives around the city. Three different shows are featured in The Car Trilogy (The Smallest Play In The World) which will pick up on Shaftesbury Avenue from 15th to 19th October. The shows, lasting about ten minutes each, will be playing between 7.30pm and 9.40pm, but performance times are subject to the vagaries of traffic conditions. With a venue cost per performance of about 16p (for a fifth of a litre of unleaded petrol) and a ticket price of 5, Ming's venture is likely to be more profitable than the shows in the theatres he is passing.

It's Official! - 2 Confirming earlier reports, We Will Rock You, Ben Elton's Mamma Mia! style show injecting Queen songs into a loose story format, will open at the Dominion Theatre on 14th May. It is set in a repressed musicless future, where the leading character hears Queen music in his head, and rock music is reborn to save the world. Sounds as though it will make previous Dominion incumbent, Dave Clark's execrable Time, seem like Shakespeare. Chris Renshaw is to direct with Arlene Phillips choreographing.

In the mean time, the touring company of Grease will return to the Dominion, the show's original West End home, from 22nd October to 3rd November, instead of the London Apollo Hammersmith as previously billed.

After 11 years the Battersea Arts Centre's Festival Of Visual Theatre is dead - long live the Battersea Arts Centre's OctoberFest. Only the title has changed as it still celebrates the work of companies who are exploring new and exciting forms of theatre. This year it runs from 6th to 28th October, and highlights include Spymonkey's Cooped, directed by Cal McCrystal; Abi Morgan's Tiny Dynamite, a co-production by Frantic Assembly and Paines Plough, directed by Vicky Featherstone; and the return of Zygo's The True History Of The Tragic Life & Triumphant Death Of Julia Pastrana by Shaun Prendergast, which is performed in total darkness. Full details can be found on the Battersea Arts Centre web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The latest in the long line of development plans for The Roundhouse at Chalk Farm has received a 2.42m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Roundhouse Trust, set up in 1996, has so far raised 13m of the 25m to complete the project. Originally built as an engine shed in 1847, it was first launched as a performance space called Centre 42 by Arnold Wesker in 1961. The current plan is for the existing structure to be restored, including the reinstatement of the circular glazed roof lights, and the original locomotive entrance. The undercroft will become a creative centre for young people in music, film, theatre, broadcasting and fashion. In addition, a new building, linked to the present structure by an atrium, will house a studio theatre, bar and restaurant. The plan is for work to start next autumn with completion in two years. The question is, will it succeed where the other plans of the last forty years have failed?

Broadway Bound: A new concept is scheduled during the current season. 3HREE: One Act Musicals comprising: The Flight Of The Lawnchair Man by Robert Lindsey Nassif and Robert Ullian, directed by Harold Prince; The Mice by Laurence O'Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Julia Jordan, directed by Brad Rouse; and Lavender Girl by John Bucchino and James Waedekin, directed by Scott Schwartz. Perhaps this is an enterprising way of encouraging new writing talent that we could emulate in the West End.

The Theatre Royal Stratford East will finally reopen after its long refurbishment programme on 1st December, just two weeks before its 117th birthday, with a traditional pantomime Aladdin, book and lyrics by David Cregan and music by Brian Protheroe. The auditorium was restored in 1992, and the current work includes upgrading the backstage facilities and extending the foyer and bar areas.

The Rumour Machine says: that Stephen Dillane is to star as a '70s radical whose time has come again in Life After George by Australian Hannie Rayson, directed by Michael Blakemore, early in the new year, that the Broadway musical Jekyll And Hyde, Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn's adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, is heading for the Phoenix Theatre next summer; and that Sean Bean is to make his West End debut as Macbeth, directed by Edward Hall, produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group, next autumn. The Rumour Machine grinds on.