News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 5th November 1999

Ray Cooney's previously mentioned production of William Douglas Home's comedy The Chiltern Hundreds will open at the Vaudeville Theatre on 17th November. It stars Edward Fox, Polly Adams, Mark Dexter, Delia Lindsay, Carli Norris, Malcolm Rennie, Finty Williams and Moray Watson. The play tells the story of the idiosyncratic Earl of Lister and his household in the chaos of polling day 1945, presaging the Labour landslide. Bill Kenwright is the producer.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is reported to be working with influential creatives from "Bollywood" - the Indian film industry - on a musical with the current title of Bombay Dreams. He is collaborating with director Shekhar Kapur, composer A R Rahman and percussionist Talvin Singh, although this is still at an exploratory level. Lloyd Webber's next project to hit the stage is expected be The Beautiful Game, his Irish football show written with Ben Elton, towards the end of next year.

David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow is to join the New Ambassadors Theatre season in March. The play presents a behind the camera look at Hollywood, and centres on a producer's decision to film a novel about a nuclear catastrophe and the end of the world, rather than his usual star laden surefire hit. The original Broadway cast included Madonna making her theatre debut.

Following the success of the Cats workshop during Kids Week in the West End last August comes The Cats Kids Club. It will be running from 11.15am to 2.30pm at the New London Theatre, on Saturdays 4th, 11th and 18th December, for children aged between 8 and 15. The event consists of a backstage tour, face painting, drama games and the opportunity to meet members of the cast. Tickets cost £10 inclusive of a packed lunch.

The Coward centenary year celebrations reach a climax with Noel Coward - The Centenary Celebration to be staged at the Savoy Theatre on 12th December, four days before the anniversary of his birth. Richard Attenborough will introduce the show, which will include extracts from Coward's plays, poems and diaries, directed by Trevor Nunn, Christopher Morahan, Maria Aitken, Patrick Garland, Kit Thacker and Hugh Wooldridge. Among the artists appearing will be Alan Bates, Simon Russell Beale, Simon Callow, Charles Dance, Lucy Fleming, Edward Fox, Stephen Fry, Nigel Havers, Derek Jacobi, John Mills, Greta Scacchi, Donald Sinden, Imogen Stubbs and James Wilby.

Fundraising for the Royal Court Theatre's refurbishment is to encompass a pub quiz - but an up market transatlantic pub quiz, naturally. A version of the annual River Café Charity Quiz, (question master Jeremy "Come on! Come on!" Paxman) is to be held in New York in conjunction with the New Yorker magazine. Originally set up by John and Penelope Mortimer in 1995, the £100 a ticket quiz (which includes River Café nosh) has in the past attracted the likes of Tom Stoppard, Stephen Fry and Salman Rushdie. Now it will be the cream of Manhattan glitterati competing - Simon Schama, Joe Klein, and Jay MacInery have been mentioned - with David Letterman possibly asking the questions. It will however retain River Café Quiz control, with Gill Hornby still setting the questions, and Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers going to New York to provide the food.

The previously mentioned Almeida Theatre productions with Ralph Feinnes as Richard II and Coriolanus are now confirmed, with advance booking open from 8th November. They will be staged in a 700 seater space created in the old Gainsborough Film Studios, on the bank of the Regent's Canal in Shoreditch, with Jonathan Kent directing. Richard II opens on 30th March, with Coriolanus joining on 1st June, and they will then play in repertoire until 22nd July, with both plays performed on Saturdays.

Just when you thought you'd seen it all dept: A small sub mariner is required to provide sub-aqua cover in Japanese Water Garden for the production of Madam Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall next February. Must be able to work alone under water for periods of up to two and a half hours. Apply in writing to Raymond Gubbay. I know synchronised swimming is now an Olympic sport, but I didn't realise it had become an integral part of opera production. That must explain why the refurbishment of Covent Garden has cost so much - plumbing is an expensive business.

The Young Vic Theatre's Christmas production will be The Nativity, which weaves Biblical parables into the story of Jesus's birth, and is adapted and directed by David Farr. It will play from 6th December to 29th January, and features Nina Sosanya, Toby Jones, Nicholas Sidi and Toby Sedwick. There will be two gala performances on 4th December in aid of the Funded Ticket Scheme, which will hopefully raise enough to enable 6,000 children from deprived south London schools to see performances for free.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's Adopt An Actor scheme for schools has been such a success that it is to be repeated next year. Schools adopt one member of the company, and throughout the season regular bulletins are posted on the Globe web site regarding his/her activities during the rehearsal and performance process. There is also an activity programme for the schools, based on what "their" actor is currently doing, such as researching the play, providing alternative casting options and icebreaker games during rehearsals. Further details from the Shakespeare's Globe web site via the link from the UK London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that after Bash - the a trilogy of plays by Neil LaBute about "beautiful people doing awful things" - plays Beverley Hills in December, with the original New York cast of Calista Flockhart, Ron Eldard and Paul Rudd, the men may come to London for the Almeida Theatre production, possibly joined by Kate Winslet; that despite (or perhaps because of) the fatwa issued this week on author Terence McNally, Corpus Christi "the gay Jesus play" at the London Pleasance may transfer to a West End theatre; and that Placido Domingo wants to broaden his audience base, and has commissioned Woody Allen to write him a comic opera. The Rumour Machine grinds on.