News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 6th February 2004

The National Theatre has announced its productions for the rest of this year. In the Olivier: Cyrano De Bergerac, with Stephen Rea, Claire Price, Zubin Varla and Malcolm Storry, directed by Howard Davies; Complicite's production of Measure For Measure, with Naomi Frederick, Paul Rhys, Toby Jones and Angus Wright, directed by Simon McBurney; A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, the Roman musical comedy, with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, starring Desmond Barrit, directed by Edward Hall; Stuff Happens, a new play by David Hare about the build up to war in Iraq, directed by Nicholas Hytner; and the return of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. In the Lyttelton: The Permanent Way tansfers; The History Boys, a new comic drama by Alan Bennett set in a boys school, with Frances de la Tour, directed by Nicholas Hytner; Euripdes's war play Iphigenia At Aulis, directed by Katie Mitchell; and new version of Lorca's The House Of Bernarda Alba by David Hare, directed by Howard Davies. In the Cottesloe: Roy Williams's Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads, the football supporters in a pub saga that launched the Loft season in 2002, directed by Paul Miller; Improbable Theatre's improvisational piece Lifegame; new version of Marivaux's The False Servant by Martin Crimp, with Adrian Scarborough and David Collings, directed by Jonathan Kent; Rebecca Lenkiewicz's The Night Season, a one man play about the Italian writer and scientist Primo Levi; If This Is A Man, written and performed by Antony Sher, directed by Richard Wilson; and Nikolai Erdman's Russian farce The Mandate, in a new version by Declan Donnellan, who also directs.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has called for commercial theatre to be given the tax breaks that are enjoyed by film companies. The Section 48 tax relief for investors in "British qualifying" films was introduced in 1997 and extended until 2005. It gives 100% first year tax write off for films budgeted below 15m. In the year 1999/2000 it is estimated that some 500m of film production was generated through Section 48 relief. A scheme for the theatre, similarly tailored to small budget projects, would encourage the commercial production of plays and small scale musicals, without subsidising the blockbuster shows.

Phillip Pullman-mania has hit the stage, as an opera based on his novel Clockwork, with music by Stephen McNeff and libretto by David Wood, will play at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House from 16th March to 3rd April, prior to a regional tour. The story involves a sinister Dr Kalmenius of Shatzberg, whose mysterious mechanical figures assume a life of their own, and is suitable for eight year olds and above. Tony Graham directs the Unicorn Theatre production.

The Phantom Of The Opera became the second longest running show in Broadway history this week, when it clocked up its 6,681st performance, shortly after its 16th birthday, so there is now just Cats left to beat. Claiming to be the most successful stage musical of all time, worldwide it has been seen by over 100m people, with ticket sales approaching 1.75bn.

The Place has joined with the Covent Garden's ROH2 programme to launch the Place Prize, a 100,000 choreography competition to help develop new British talent. Twenty choreographers will be chosen from the entrants, and commissioned to create new dance works, receiving 3,000 and studio time to make their work. From these, five finalists will be selected, and following further performances, during which they will be eligible for ten nightly prizes of 1,000, voted for by the audience, one overall winner, chosen by a panel of judges, who will receive 25,000. Further special prizes worth 5,000 will also be awarded. Anyone based in the UK making dance as a profession can apply to take part by submitting a three minute video illustrating the stimulus for their choreographic idea. The closing date for entries is 18th March, and the semi-final and final performances will be at The Place between 8th and 25th September. Further information and an entry form can be found on The Place web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Theatre Museum is running Jumpers: Access All Areas, a series of events between 9th and 15th February, based around Tom Stoppard's philosophical comedy currently at the Piccadilly Theatre. These include a question and answer session with Simon Russell Beale about his role; interactive seminars Stoppard: In Context For Students and The Plays Of Tom Stoppard; a workshop with the show's acrobats, which the audience can join in; and a day long acting workshop for adults. For further information and to book tickets call Julia Potts at the Theatre Museum on 020 8290 8264.

On The Casting Couch: Francesca Annis and David Yelland will join Ian McDermott in Pirandello's Henry IV, opening at the Donmar Warehouse on 4th May; and Maria Friedman, Anne Hathaway and Kevin McKidd will star in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman In White, opening at the Palace Theatre in September.

A site specific production of The Round Dance, a new translationby Charles Osborn of Arthur Schnitzler's circular tale of sexual encounters, will be staged in The Undercroft at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm from 17th February to 12th March. It features Jocelyn Barker, Martha Collins, Ryan Ellsworth, Cassie Friend, Scott Frazer and Nicholas Prideaux, directed by Rebecca McCutcheon. The action is relocated from fin-de-siecle Vienna to late Victorian London, and the unique brick archways and tunnels surrounding the central circular performance area of the Undercroft will form an integral part of the production. It is an Angels in the Architecture production.

The proposed American National Theatre has released the architectural designs for its home on the site of the World Trade Center, should its submission be approved. Richard Olcott designed the building in collaboration with fellow architect Steve Friedlander and the ANT. The plan is to build a complex housing three theatres, of 1,000, 700, and 400 seats, in which a 15 play season (5 productions in each space), would be presented each year. ANT would not produce shows, but would select the 15 best regional productions and transfer them to its stages, becoming a showcase for the best of American theatre. The complex has been designed so that it could be built elsewhere, should ANT not receive approval for inclusion in the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, its preferred location.