News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 7th July 2000

The Arts Theatre, the 344 seater venue near Leicester Square which has only been used sporadically since the Unicorn Children's Theatre moved out last year, is to reopen in the autumn with a new Anglo-American management team. British producers Edward Snape and Paddy Wilson have joined with Americans Richard Frankel Productions, Marc Routh Productions and Scorpio Entertainment to establish it as a centre for new writing. London desperately needs a true Off Broadway style theatre of this size, centrally located, and accessible to new work and producers (and Off Broadway transfers), as the Donmar Warehouse used to be before it was refurbished. The plan is to launch as soon as possible, with the bar as a café which will be open all day, and the box office as a ticket agency selling tickets for all West End shows. A more comprehensive refurbishment will follow once the new Arts has established itself.

The StagePass initiative, run by Youth and Music, which has given young people access to discounted tickets for arts events for more than twenty years, has been forced to close down after having its funding removed by the Arts Council. The scheme enabled 16 to 29 year olds to book reduced price tickets in advance for cinemas, theatres and concert venues across the UK, and had around 6,000 members.

Dancefest 2000 - A National Celebration of Movement and Dance, will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on 30th September. 600 dancers from over 25 performance groups from all over the UK will celebrate dance in its many forms including ballet, ballroom, salsa and tap. The event is organised by the Movement and Dance Division of the Central Council of Physical Recreation which encourages the enjoyment of movement and dance at every level.

The future of the Westminster Theatre is in doubt after redevelopment plans have been revealed. Yolanda, the current owners, want to demolish the 586 seater theatre and replace it with an apartment building, which would incorporate a token 170 seater studio theatre for the Talawa Theatre company. The Save London's Theatres Campaign opposes the replacement, describing it as "ludicrously small", but sadly the Theatres Trust is not opposing it. Westminster City Council has yet to consider the planning application. The Mermaid Theatre is subject to a similar planning application to the City of London for an office development. It shows that although the battle against these kinds of proposals appeared to have been won, we need to be vigilant to preserve our theatres. A deluge of letters of protest to the planning departments of both councils could help.

Jongleurs Comedy Club in Camden Lock is to start a programme of live webcasts, which it aims to make a truly interactive experience. Home viewers will be able to take part by email or in a chat room, so that their heckles will appear on a screen upstage of the performers, for both the live and online audiences to "enjoy". Jongleurs hopes that the picture quality will be good enough for it to be received through a television set rather than just a computer monitor. There is a link to the Jongleurs web site via the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

For a third time, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation is providing the resources for the National Theatre's initiative to encourage new audiences. Tickets will be available to people who have never been to the National before at prices ranging from £1 to £5. There will be a Hamlyn Night over the next six months for each of the following productions: House, Noises Off, Romeo And Juliet and My Fair Lady. There are also a dozen £10 Nights each year, which are available to anyone and bookable in advance by phone, when all seats cost £!0. Over the past two years an estimated 40,000 people have benefited from the Hamlyn scheme. Further information from 020 7389 9660.

A musical of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre will open on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 3rd December. The book and additional lyrics are by John Caird, who also co-directs with Scott Schwartz, and music and lyrics are by Paul Gordon. The show played a tryout season at the La Jolla Playhouse in California last summer. John Napier's set, which needs 32 feet of wing space to accommodate it, provides 36 changes of scenery and enables Thornfield Hall to "burn down" eight times a week. Marla Schaffel and James Barbour reprise their performances in the leading roles.

Can John Doyle make it 3 in a row? Cabaret and Irma La Douce, his last two small scale ensemble musicals at the Watermill Newbury, were nominated for Best Musical in the Barclays Theatre Awards in 1998 and 1999. This year it's Carmen, which opened this week and runs until 26th August. Doyle has adapted and directed Bizet's classic love story, relocating it in Spain at the time of the Civil War. The company is made up of actor musicians who accompany themselves. As to whether they also tear tickets on the door and serve behind the bar in the interval you have to go to the Watermill to find out.

Birmingham Royal Ballet to make its first visit to America in September, playing a week in Chicago and two weeks in New York. The repertoire will consist of Edward II and Jazz Triple Bill: Slaughter On Tenth Avenue, The Shakespeare Suite and The Nutcracker Sweeties. The company is looking for sponsorship to help pay for the trip, which will be part of a promotion of Birmingham as a city of culture.

The Three Choirs Festival this year rests at Hereford, from 19th to 21st August, with choral greats such as Bach's St John Passion, Haydn's Creation, Britten's War Requiem and Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. New works include Paul Patterson's Southwell Millennium Mass and Francis Grier's Around The Curve of the World. There are world premiere performances of Judith Bingham's Otherworld, Kenneth Leighton's Oboe Concerto, and Dialogue for Viola and Strings by Jeremy Lubbock. Full details from the Three Choirs Festival web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Spend Spend Spend has been given its marching orders on 5th August by Piccadilly Theatre owners the Ambassador Group because the business has been poor, which is fair enough, but it is to be replaced by La Cava (which has been given its marching orders on 22nd July by the Victoria Palace because the business has been poor). The shuffle has been secured by the seemingly limitless pockets of the La Cava producers, who have guaranteed the Piccadilly six months rent. Can this be true? The Rumour Machine grinds on.