News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 6th December 2002

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Nicholas Hyntner is living up to the promise he made at the inaugural meeting of Mercury Musical Developments, to treat musical theatre seriously when he takes over at the National. Signaling a definite regime change, he has snapped up Richard Thomas now almost legendary Jerry Springer: The Opera, in which trailer trash sing their stories, retaining co-writer Stewart Lee as director for the first fully staged production of the piece in April . . . Nicholas Wright is adapting Philip Pullman's children's Tolkein like fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, which Hytner will direct next Christmas . . . Adrian Lester is to play Henry V . . . Simon Russell Beale is to star in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers, directed by David Levaux.

Michael Boyd's new broom as artistic director at the Royal Shakespeare Company will sweep in at Stratford next year: Henry Goodman as Richard III directed by Sean Holmes; Alexandra Gilbreath and Jasper Britton in The Taming Of The Shrew and John Fletcher's lesser known 'sequel' The Tamer Tamed, both directed by Gregory Doran; Emma Fielding in Measure For Measure directed by Sean Holmes and Cymbeline directed by Dominic Cooke; Bill Alexander directing Titus Andronicus; and Gregory Thompson making his RSC directorial debut with As You Like It. Boyd will not initially be directing himself, but will spend the next year tackling the RSC's financial and strategic planning problems, the greatest of which are re-establishing a permanent home in London, and deciding whether on not to go ahead with the plan to demolish the existing theatre in Stratford.

The Lion King has become the first Broadway show to be available on ticketFast, an online ticketing service from Ticketmaster, which enables theatregoers not only to buy tickets from their computer screen, but print them out from their own printer. Once the credit card purchase has been completed, the buyer receives two emails, an order confirmation, and an email with an Adobe Acrobat PDF file attachment containing their ticket and a security bar code. The service is already proved as it is in use at a number of regional sports venues, and at Madison Square Garden in New York, where the holiday season production of A Christmas Carol is playing. Further information about ticketFast, including a sample ticket, can be found on the American Ticketmaster web site via the link from the New York section of TheatreNet.

Following the Royal Opera House's successful first 'off West End' free live relay of the ballet Romeo And Juliet, which was seen by over 4000 people on a big outdoor screen in Victoria Park in east London, the scheme is to go nationwide. Next summer will see relays in Slough, Gateshead and Merseyside of two operas and one ballet, although which productions have yet to be decided. The relays will be preceded by work with children in the local communities. There are also plans to screen performances in Odeon cinemas around the country.

The Royal Opera House has set up a new department ROH2 to present new art and artists to fresh audiences, with the ubiquitous Deborah Bull as artistic director. It is to join forces with Music Theatre Wales in setting up a 250,000 fund to commission new work, which will be raised from private donors and commercial sponsorship. The initial proposal is a five year programme producing four chamber operas, by Lynne Plowman, Nigel Osbourne, Aribert Reimann and Michael Berkley, which will be seen at the Linbury Studio at Covent Garden and then go on tour.

The 25th London International Mime Festival runs from 10th to 26th January, and features 21 companies from around the world, spanning the full range of visual theatre, including leading exponents of mime, animation, circus, puppetry, clowning and vaudeville, together with a programme of talks and workshops. It begins at The Place with the Swiss trio Metzer/Zimmermann/dePerrot, in Gopf, a mix of circus, dance and club music, which conjures up a sliding jigsaw show of surreal, segmented images, and ends at the Pleasance with the multinational Theatre de l'Ange Fou in their award winning adaptation of Gogol's The Government Inspector. Performances are at the Battersea Arts Centre, Croydon Clocktower, Barbican, Circus Space, ICA, The Place, Pleasance, Soho Theatre and South Bank Centre. Full details can be found on the LIMF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Dominic Madden has purchased the lease of the former Coronet cinema at the Elephant and Castle and plans to convert it into a multipurpose live venue, incorporating a 2000 capacity dance club on two floors, a 600 seater/1500 standing live music venue, and a 600 seater cinema. In its earlier life as a music hall, the building reputedly saw Charlie Chaplin's stage debut as a child performer.

Cliff - The Musical, a biographical compilation show about Cliff Richard, will open at the Prince of Wales Theatre on 12th March, following a series of regional dates. Mike Read and Colin Rozee have compiled the show, together with Trevor Payne who will also direct. Casting has yet to be confirmed, but Cliff will definitely not be playing himself - presumably he is too old.

Soho Theatre is now accepting entries for the Westminster Prize, an annual playwriting competition for playwrights of any age with amateur or professional experience, who live, work or study in Westminster. Entrants are invited to submit a short play (approximately 10 minutes long) with no more than two characters, based on a photograph, which shows someone facing a pair of doors with no entry signs. The three winners will receive theatre tokens and the plays will be given a staged reading at Soho Theatre in the spring. There will be a free workshop on 10th January for anyone wanting advice or help in writing their play, but places are strictly limited. The closing date for entries is 10th February. You can find the photograph and full details on the Soho Theatre website via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine in New York says: that Baz Luhrman is working on plans to stage a musical based on his film Strictly Ballroom in a "non traditional space" (that's a ballroom to you and me); that Vanessa Redgrave will star with Brian Dennehy, Robert Sean Leonard and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey Into Night on Broadway in March, directed by Robert Falls; and that composer George Stiles and wordsmith Anthony Drewe are working an a musical tentatively titled Soho, a modern Cinderella tale set in an internet cafe - which is deliberately being written so that it could be in Soho London or SoHo New York. The Rumour Machine grinds on.