Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
It is now confirmed that former child film star Macaulay Culkin is to make his West End stage debut. He will star with French actress Irene Jacob in Richard Nelson's play Madame Melville, opening on 18th October at the Vaudeville Theatre. It is the "Graduate clone-ish" story of an American student in Paris, who is seduced by his thirty-something French teacher. The producers are Gregory Mosher, Adam Kenwright and Andrew Fell.
The Shadow Arts Council, the lobbying body set up last year by Peter Hall, has published a report which exposes just how the arts are being short changed by the government. Funding in real terms is now less than under the last administration, since allowing for inflation, previous government spending averaged at £221m a year compared with £218m currently. Recently announced spending plans will raise this to £282m, but not for two years, by which time inflation will have reduced its value. Presenting the figures, Deputy SAC chairman John Tusa said: "Many highly appreciated companies still lack the financial support needed for viable operation, let alone for the expansion and innovation envisaged in the new arts strategy."
The Vivian Ellis Prize 2000 Showcase Gala will take place at the London Palladium on 19th September at 2.30pm. West End performers will present excerpts from the finalists in this year's national competition to discover, nurture and promote new writers in musical theatre working in Britain. A panel of experts, including George Stiles and Anthony Drewe - winners of the first Prize in 1985, who took this year's Olivier Award for Best Musical with Honk! - will then give their verdict and eight awards will be made. A limited number of tickets are still available with a special offer which listed in the ShowSavers area of TheatreNet.
On The Casting Couch: Daryl Hannah's partner in The Seven Year Itch at the Queens Theatre from 9th October will be Rolf Saxon, together with Myriam Acharki, William Hope, Anthony O'Donnell, Debora Weston and Helene Wilson.
England's six independent drama schools are considering forming a consortium in order to achieve Higher Education status to secure maintenance grants for their students. The current Further Education classification of RADA, LAMDA, Webber Douglas, ALRA, Oxford School of Drama and Arts Educational puts them at a disadvantage compared with those schools which have affiliated with universities. They fear that closer association with universities would result in losing their individuality and total control of the composition of their courses, not to mention creating an abundance of paperwork and unnecessary administration. A consortium composed of such prestigious institutions might be able to negotiate directly with the Department of Education and be recognised as a Higher Education funding institution in its own right.
This year's Dance Umbrella, running from 18th September to 4th November presents the best of national and international contemporary dance, taking as its theme the relationship between dance and new technology. Highlights include: new work from Lloyd Newson, Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor and Stephen Petronio; the return of the Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown Dance Companies from New York and Ballet Preljocaj from France; debuts of Ballett Freiburg/Pretty Ugly, the Inbal Pinto Company and Yael Flexer's Bedlam; plus regulars Siobhan Davies, Saburo Teshigawara, Carlotta Ikeda, Sasha Pepelyaev and Aletta Collins. It also features Virtual Incarnations, a week of performances, installations, webcasts and a chat room with a panel of choreographers and digital artists. Full details of programmes and venues from the Dance Umbrella web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.
The Edinburgh Fringe hit Puppetry Of The Penis, opens on 20th September at the Whitehall Theatre for a five week run. It is an adult cabaret, in which Simon Morley and David Friend perform the "ancient Australian art of genital origami", the results of which are projected on to a screen so that the audience can see their abilities in close-up. The show made its debut at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 1998, and has since toured nationally in Australia. David Johnson and Richard Temple are the London producers.
Ken Livingstone is talking to Covent Garden about extending its live performance relays (which start on 12th September) beyond the Piazza to other venues, such as Trafalgar Square, Crystal Palace Bowl and Alexandra Palace. Livingstone is grinding the access stone yet again, contrasting the £20m a year public funding which the Royal Opera House receives, with the £150,000 which goes to the Notting Hill Carnival. He might ponder on the fact that while it may get crowded in the Crush Bar, at least no-one gets killed there.
The Russian Arts And Heritage Foundation, whose aim is to promote talented young Russian artists, is to present Ikons, its first event on 1st October at the London Palladium. It will be a celebration of Russian dance, featuring Anastasia Volochkova and Irek Mukhamedov with a company of young dancers, performing a programme which will include pieces from Swan Lake and Don Quixote.
Cats will have its last miaow in New York on 10th September, when the longest running musical in Broadway history closes, after 18 years and 7485 performances at the Winter Garden Theater. The date coincides with the annual open air Broadway On Broadway concert in Times Square, which marks the official start of the new theatre season. Performers presenting excerpts from current shows will be joined by Betty Buckley, the original New York Grizabella, who will sing Memory. Past company members will attend a special matinee the previous day, and the final performance and closing night party will be by invitation only. The production statistics covering the show are alarming: 1.8m pounds of dry ice boiled up, 3247 pounds of yak hair used for the costumes, and 284 actors employed, including Marlene Danielle who has been there for the entire run. Over 10m people have seen the show, producing box office receipts of more than $400m, and generating an economic benefit to New York estimated at $3.5bn.
And Finally . . . Tom Stoppard and Charles Hart were spotted together at a preview of The Beautiful Game - could there be some serious book and lyric doctoring in the offing?