News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 7th September 2001

London Open House, the annual scheme to allow the public into architecturally interesting but usually private buildings across the capital, takes place on 22nd and 23rd September. A record number of over 500 locations will include old favourites of theatrical interest such as Dominion, Players, Royal Court, and Soho theatres, the Granada Tooting, the Blackheath, Royal Albert, Royal Festival, St John's Smith Square and Wigmore concert halls, BBC Bush House, Broadcasting House and Television Centre, the ITN and Channel 4 buildings, and Sands Film Studio & Rotherhythe Picture Research Library. They will be joined this year by amongst others the newly refurbished The Place theatre and Electric Cinema, plus Almeida at Kings Cross, Apollo Victoria, Astoria (Rainbow) Finsbury Park, Coliseum, London Apollo and Lyric Hammersmith, Lyceum, Old Vic, and Wimbledon theatres. There are also conducted walks taking place at various locations over the course of the weekend. In 2000 over 350,000 visits were made during the two days. Entrance is free, and some venues include accompanying special events. Further details and how to obtain a directory can be found on the London Open House web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.Edinburgh Fringe Perrier Comedy Award winner Garth Marenghi will bring his show Netherhead, which also features Dean Learner and Alice Lowe, to the Soho Theatre for a three week run from 29th October. The annual Pick Of The Fringe season will run at Her Majesty's Theatre on 7th, 14th and 21st October, although the acts have yet to be announced.

Joint Artistic Directors of the Almeida Theatre, Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid have both resigned after eleven years with the company. During their tenure the Almeida has moved from a receiving house to a full time producing theatre of international standing, which has presented 15 world premieres and won 45 theatre awards. Kent and McDiarmid will leave next summer before the company returns to its home in Islington, which is currently undergoing a 4m refurbishment. There is speculation that this could put the pair into the frame for directorship of the National, previously considered unlikely because of their commitment to the Almeida.

Dance Umbrella, running from 3rd October to 10th November, presents the best of national and international contemporary dance at venues across London. This year it is launching Promenade performances at Sadler's Wells, which offer a Mark Morris world premiere and the new Michael Clark show for just 5. Other highlights include: the reopening of The Place with new work by British choreographers Richard Alston, Charles Lineham, Russell Maliphant and Fin Walker; Ronnie Harris's rap/breakdance version of Romeo And Juliet, and multimedia shows by O Vertigo and Charleroi Danses at the South Bank Centre; and Virtual Incarnations, digital dance fusing choreography and new media, with a live webcast at the ICA. Full details of programmes and venues can be found on the Dance Umbrella web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The next arena opera at the Royal Albert Hall from the Raymond Gubbay stable will be Bizet's Carmen, running from 21st February to 3rd March. It reunites the creative team of director David Freeman, designer David Roger, musical director Peter Robinson, and conductor Peter Robinson. There is no word on casting as yet, nor whether real bulls will be involved.

The off-off-Broadway theatre company Alternative Theatre Machine is currently presenting 3 Sisters Lounge, a contemporary version of Chekhov's The Three Sisters at New York's Center Stage. The three women, still yearning after a move to Moscow, are relocated in a lounge bar where a live DJ spins trip-hop, ambient and techno music. ATM's Artistic Director John Issendorf specialises in these transformations, having previously created The Pelican (Or 'For The Birds') courtesy of Strindberg and Alfred Hitchcock, and House/Wives (Notes on A Doll's House and The Stepford Wives) by morphing Ibsen into Ira Levin.

Tom Hollander will star as Moliere's Don Juan, in a new translation by Simon Nye, opening at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield on 2nd October. Controversial in all media in which his story has been told, Don Juan defies convention and morality whilst ignoring all warnings to mend his sinful ways. Michael Grandage directs a company that also includes Lucy Briers, Robert East, Anthony O'Donnell and Gideon Turner.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is holding another Masterclass season for young people who have an interest in theatre, or are keen to pursue a career in the arts. Events are open to people aged 16 and over, and are free of charge - but there is a refundable deposit required confirming the booking. Sessions begin at 2.30pm and last around two hours. The autumn series, which runs from 25th September to 6th December, features the following masters of their arts: Denis Lawson, Nigel Planer, Maria Friedman, Sharman MacDonald, Maureen Lipman, Geoffrey Colman, Michael Frayn, Shelagh Stephenson, Matthew Bourne, Thelma Holt, Deborah Warner, Arnold Wesker, Zoe Wanamaker and Lee Hall. Further information and online booking can be found on the Theatre Royal Haymarket web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Royal Family, the Edna Ferber and George Kaufman backstage on Broadway comedy based on the Barrymore dynasty, is suddenly all the rage. In London the play is on its way to the Haymarket with the all star cast of Peter Bowles, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Julia McKenzie, Toby Stephens, Phillip Voss and Harriet Walter. Meanwhile in New York, a musical version retitled The Royal Family Of Broadway, with book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by William Finn, is scheduled for production during the season which has just started.

The Rumour Machine says: that following the demise of The King And I in January, the musical based on Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, directed by Adrian Noble, will finally arrive at the London Palladium in early spring; that Ben Elton, in addition to writing a Queen stage extravaganza, is also working on a Rod Stewart biomusical; that a Broadway transfer has already been lined up for My Fair Lady - but with an American Eliza; that Alan Plater is engaged on a stage adaptation of his television film Last Of The Blonde Bombshells, about the reunion of a Second World War all girl band, for the Theatre Of Comedy Company; and that Tim Fountain is planning a stage drama about the life of journalist and novelist Julie Burchill - surely he means a pantomime? The Rumour Machine grinds on.