News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 5th November 2004

Itís Official! As previously forecast here, the Crucible Theatre Sheffield production of Friedrich Schillerís Don Carlos, in a new adaptation by Mike Poulton, starring Derek Jacobi, Richard Coyle, Claire Price and Una Stubbs, directed by Michael Grandage, will transfer to the Gielgud Theatre on 3rd February. It is the story of the tyrannical King of Spain who marries his sonís lover, provoking a rebellion against his oppressive regime. The remaining cast comprises Stuart Burt, Elliot Cowan, Peter Eyre, Michael Hadley, Ian Hogg, Paul Keating, Andrew McDonald, Brian Poyser, Charlotte Randle and Roger Swaine. It will be presented by Act Productions

The records of Britainís theatre censor are revealed for the first time in The Lord Chamberlain Regrets, by Dominic Shellard, Steve Nicholson and Miriam Handley, published this week by the British Library. Between 1824 and 1968, British theatre was controlled by censorship. All new plays were read by the Lord Chamberlainís Office to check for unfavourable or corrupting content with the intention of protecting the Ďvulnerableí audiences of the time. Unless all material deemed unsuitable was cut or amended the play was refused permission to be performed. A wealth of written material relating to these activities survives, and is held at the British Library. This book contains a selection of extensive extracts from key reports, correspondence and memoranda. New writing of the 1950s and 1960s came in for particularly severe criticism, with Harold Pinterís The Birthday Party dismissed as ďan insane and pointless playĒ, Samuel Beckettís Waiting For Godot described as ďan interminable verbal LabyrinthĒ. Such comments, together with ridiculous substitutions suggested for offensive words, hastened the censorís demise.

The Paines Plough theatre company is to present This Other England, a season of new work from leading British playwrights that take language as their starting point, at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark, beginning in February. It will comprise The Small Things by Enda Walsh, Pyrenees by David Greig, Mercury Fur by Philip Ridley and If Destroyed True by Douglas Maxwell. This will be the last Paines Plough project under the artistic directorship of Vicky Featherstone.

Pageant, chivalry and the world of King Arthur will come together in Quest - The Legend Of The Green Knight, written by Carolyn Spedden, and directed by Charlotte Conquest, which will receive its world premiere from 16th December to 3rd January, in a big top on Clapham Common. A family spectacular that includes actors, full contact jousting, combat, trick horse riding, comedy and acrobatics, it tells the legend of Sir Gawianís search for the Green Knight, and his encounters with other mythical folkloric creatures on the way. Further information can be found on the Quest web site via the link from the Shows section of TheatreNet.

The National Theatre is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Faber and Faber, one of Britainís leading publishers of plays and performing arts books, with a series of Platform events in which playwrights will discuss their works. On 10th November: Tom Stoppard - Travesties; 16th November: Tony Harrison - The Trackers Of Oxyrhyncus and Square Rounds; 3rd December: Christopher Hampton - Tales From Hollywood; and 6th December: Frank McGuinness - Dolly Westís Kitchen. Each Platform at 6pm will include discussion with the playwright and a performed extract from the play, followed by a signing.

Christopher Bruce is to choreograph a new 30 minute work for the Royal Ballet using the music of Jimi Hendrix, performed in classical style, arranged for violins, guitars, flutes and percussion by Ďpunkí violinist Nigel Kennedy. It will use a company of 16 dancers who will include Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo and Jamie Tapper. The piece will form part of a triple bill with Kenneth Macmillanís Rite Of Spring and Frederick Ashtonís The Dream, to be performed next May, and shown in a live relay on a big screen in Trafalgar Square. Bruce has previously made Rooster using the music of the Rolling Stones for London Contemporary Dance Theatre.

The Scoop, the 1,000 seater open air amphitheatre next to City Hall, the Greater London Assembly building on the south bank opposite the Tower of London, is following up its summer seasons of free performances with a Christmas show. London Nativity will feature professional actors and Southwark children in a contemporary reworking of a medieval Nativity play, with comedy, drama, puppetry and live music. The hour long performances will be at 6pm from 20th to 23rd December, and at 1.00pm on Christmas Eve. There is no need to book - just turn up and sit down - but be sure to and wrap up well. As with the previous shows it will be directed by Phil Willmott, and produced by Suzanna Rosenthal and The Steam Industry.

The Society of London Theatre has published the Box Office Data Report 2003, providing detailed analysis of attendance figures and box office returns in the West End, which includes the major commercial and grant-aided theatres. As well as exploring the attendance statistics as a whole, the report also analyses the differences in number of performances, attendance and receipts between the subsidised and commercial sectors, and discusses audience trends in relation to category of production. Nearly 12 million visits were made during 2003, which saw a continuation of the trend for increased attendance for new writing. 61% of all play attendances were to plays written within the last 5 years, which is a rise from 59% in 2002 and 41% in 2001. The Box Office Data Report is essential reading for theatre investors, producers, and theatre marketers, as well as those in academic and government sectors dealing with the performing arts. Further information can be found on the SOLT web site via the link opposite.

The Rumour Machine says: that Henry Goodman will star in Harold Pinterís The Birthday Party, directed by Lindsay Posner, touring to Birmingham and Bath and arriving in the West End in April; that Jonathan Kent will direct Luigi Pirandelloís As You Desire Me, in a new version by Hugh Whitemore, in the West End in May; that suddenly free Richard Dreyfuss may take over the (non singing non dancing ) title role in Jerry Springer - The Opera; that the 1999 Tony Award winning Broadway production of Arthur Millerís Death Of A Salesman with Brian Dennehy, directed by Robert Falls, will finally reach London in May; and that Penelope Wilton will star in the David Hareís new version of Lorcaís The House Of Bernarda Alba at the National in March. The Rumour Machine grinds on.