News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 9th March 2007

The Brighton Festival, running from 5th to 27th May, will celebrate its 41st birthday with 7 world premieres, 3 UK premieres and hundreds of events from around the world. Among the highlights will be: in dance, Ballet C de la B's, Import Export, an investigation of powerlessness; in opera, Dido And Aenaes 1700, a new extended version of Purcell's work reconstructed by Philip Pickett; in performance and theatre, French company Komplex Kapharnaum's PlayRec installation with local people telling their own stories, and Neil Bartlett's site specific production of Jean Genet's The Maids, staged in a seafront hotel car park; in music, an exploration of the genre of The Big Band, Laurence Olivier's film version of Henry V accompanied by a live orchestral score, and the film Run Lola Run accompanied by live music from The Bays; and in books and debate, 41 Places, a collection of found narratives by journalist William Shaw displayed in different ways throughout the city. Further information can be found on the BF web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

Scottish Dance Theatre is currently touring the UK until 25th May with a repertoire comprising the world premiere of Adam Benjamin's Angels Of Incidence, for which four international performers with disability join the company; Janet Smith's Touching Zulu, about the survival of Zulu culture; and Liv Lorent's Luxuria, an earthy piece set to a classical score.

New York TheatreNet: Xanadu, a stage musical based on the 1980 film, with book by Douglas Carter Beane, and original film score by John Farrar and Jeff Lynne, featuring Kerry Butler, directed by Christopher Ashley, will make its Broadway debut at the Helen Hayes Theatre on June 26th. It is the story of a Greek muse sent to Earth to inspire mortals and artists in Venice Beach California in the 1980s, who falls in love with an artist while helping him realise his dreams.

This year's Opera Holland Park season runs from 5th June to 11th August, with the City of London Sinfonia as resident orchestra. It comprises new productions of Verdi's Nabucco, Janacek's Jenufa, Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, Delibes's Lakme, Verdi's La traviata and Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre Re, directed by Martin Lloyd Evans. The Theatre is located in the middle of Holland Park and uses the ruins of Holland House as a backdrop to the performances. Both stage and audience are covered by a canopy. Further information and online booking can be found on the OHP web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

After many years out of print, the work of Kenneth Tynan, Britain's most influential 20th century theatre critic is available again, from Nick Hern Books. Famous for championing the Angry Young Men at the Royal Court and for heralding Brecht, Beckett and Pinter, Tynan's writing was itself a 'high definition performance' - stylish, discerning and witty. Kenneth Tynan: Theatre Writings, comprises over 100 of his reviews, including his assessments of the first ever London productions of Waiting For Godot, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A View From The Bridge, The Entertainer, A Taste Of Honey, and Beyond The Fringe. Also included are articles on such topics as Broadway musicals, censorship, Bertolt Brecht, and the need for a National Theatre, where he was later to be literary manager. A new edition of Tynan's Profiles features 50 profiles of actors such as Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud; directors George Cukor, Peter Brook and Joan Littlewood; writers such as Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams; and comedians as diverse as Mel Brooks, Eric Morecambe, W C Fields and Lenny Bruce.

The Puppet Theatre Barge, currently moored at its winter home in Little Venice, is presenting afternoon performances of Aesop's fable The Town Mouse And The Country Mouse at weekends during March and April, and throughout Easter week; and Brer Rabbit Visits Africa at weekends during May and June, and throughout the Spring Bank Holiday. An adult marionette version of Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness will be presented at evening performances during June and July. The 55 seater theatre created on a canal barge, now in its 25th season, presents marionette and rod puppet spectacles throughout the year. It spends July to October on the River Thames, giving performances at Henley, Marlow, Cliveden and Richmond. Further information can be found on the PTB web site via the link from London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.

English Touring Opera opens its spring tour at the Hackney Empire on 15th March, which continues until 26th May. The repertoire comprises new productions of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, with Amanda Echalaz, Roland Wood, Michael Bracegirdle, Marie Elliot, Clare Shearer, Linda Hibberd and Geoffrey Moses, directed by James Conway, and Mozart's The Seraglio, with Elizabeth Donovan, Lorina Gore, Hal Cazalet, Joshua Ellicott, Sion Goronwy and Richard Jackson, directed by Gavin Quinn, together at many venues with a staged concert performance of Strauss's Spirit Of Vienna, with Nicky Spence, Sylvia O'Brien, Cheryl Enever and Mary O'Sullivan, Patrick Ashcroft, and Richard Jackson.

A report by Equity, the actor's union, shows just what a big return the treasury gets from funding the theatre. Thanks to the 25m increase in funding following the Theatre Review, regional venues are now producing 85% more new work than in 2001, and have increased attendances by 40%. However, as funding now being reduced again with below inflation rises, activity is already beginning to decrease, since all venues are sensitive to even small changes in their finances. The report estimates that it would cost just 3.5m a year from the treasury to ensure an inflation funding increase for theatre.

The 51st National Student Drama Festival takes place in Scarborough from 29th March to 4th April, open to everyone: colleges, youth theatres, community organisations and universities. This year's play will be Al Smith's Radio, Eugene Ionesco's Victims Of Duty, Charlie Brafman's Cast Aside, Edward Wren's The Ordinaries In An Awkward Silence, Rona Munro's Iron, Adam Rapp's Stone Cold Dead Serious, Lee Barnes's Talking In The Darkness, Robin Soans's Talking To Terrorists, Jez Butterworth's The Night Heron and Haozkla, devised by Pangolin's Teatime. In addition to performances, the Festival also has an extensive programme of over 200 workshops, masterclasses, debates, street theatre and other events, with participants including Alan Cox, Charlotte Emerson, Tim Fountain, Louise McCarthy, Mark Ravenhill, Ian Reddington, Mark Rosenblatt and Nabil Shaban, as well as companies such as Hull Truck and Lyric Hammersmith, together with Scarborough's Cultural Godfather, Alan Ayckbourn. During the Festival, the town assumes the mantle of a mini Edinburgh Fringe, as a variety of venues become performance spaces. Further information can be found on the NSDF web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.