News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 9th April 2010

Once again Shakespeare's birthday will receive a celebration at Shakespeare's Globe. On Saturday 17th April, there will be the traditional Sonnet Walks, during which twelve sonneteers will entertain walkers along routes to Bankside. There is a choice of two routes through Tudor London, starting from Westminster Abbey or St Leonard's Church in Shoreditch. Walks leave every 15 minutes from 10am to 12.45pm. On Sunday 18th April, there will be an open day from 12noon to 5pm, with free games, activities and workshops, plus the opportunity for members of the public to create sound effects for the witches scene in 'the Scottish play', go on a date with Henry VIII, sing-a-long with Globe musicians, and perform their favourite Shakespeare speech from the stage. On the day itself, Friday 23rd April, the season will open with a performance of Macbeth.

The Royal Shakespeare Company will celebrate Shakespeare's birthday with a festival on Saturday 24th April in Stratford upon Avon. Events will include the annual procession from Shakespeare's Birthplace to his grave at the Holy Trinity Church at 10.30am; RSC actors performing the balcony scene from Romeo And Juliet in various locations around the town; Elizabethan family dance workshops; Sonnets On The Ferry, trips across the river from the theatre gardens accompanied by sonnets performed by RSC actors; stage fighting demonstrations; and Sonnet Sleuth, a literary scavenger hunt with 14 clues from the sonnets hidden around the town centre.

Meanwhile, the Royal Shakespeare Company has confirmed that a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda, book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics Tim Minchin, about a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers, directed by Matthew Warchus, with choreography by Peter Darling, will open at the Courtyard Theatre on 9th December.

Glyndebourne Opera's 2010 season, running from 20th May to 29th August, will comprise: new productions of Britten's Billy Budd, with Jacques Imbrailo, John Mark Ainsley, Phillip Ens and Matthew Rose, directed by Michael Grandage; and Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Gerald Finley, Luca Pisaroni, Kate Royal, Anna Samuil, Isobel Leonard and William Burden, directed by Jonathan Kent; plus revivals of Nicholas Hytner's production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte; Richard Jones's production of Verdi's Macbeth; Laurent Pelly's production of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel; and John Cox's production of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. There are study events at Glyndebourne giving historical background and musical analysis of the new productions, and pre performance talks on each of the productions. Further information can be found on the Glyndebourne web site, via the link from Regional Theatres in the Links section of TheatreNet.

A revised version of the musical Chess, lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, with a cast of 25 actor/musicians, directed by Craig Revel Horwood, will open a prospective pre West End tour at the Theatre Royal Newcastle on 27th August. Set at the height of the Cold War, it involves a romantic triangle between American and Russian players in a world chess championship, and a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. The producer is Michael Harrison.

Forthcoming productions at the New End Theatre in Hampstead will include the one person plays Mr Maugham At Home by Anthony Curtis, with Anthony Smee as the writer Somerset Maugham reflecting on his life at the approach of the Second World War, directed by Ninon Jerome, from 21st April; and My Darling Clementine by Hugh Whitemore, with Rohan McCullogh as Clementine Churchill, reminiscing on her life as the wife of Winston Churchill, directed by Gareth Armstrong, from 4th May, an Indigo Entertainments production.

The Pantomime Life Of Joseph Grimaldi by Andrew McDonnell Stott, published by Cannongate Books and recently shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize, is a fascinating account of the most celebrated of English clowns. Joseph Grimaldi was the first to use white face make up and wear outrageous coloured clothes, transforming the role of the Clown in pantomime. One of the first celebrity comedians, his friends included Lord Byron and the actor Edmund Kean, and his memoirs were edited by Charles Dickens. However, underneath the stage paint, Grimaldi struggled with depression and his life was blighted by tragedy. The outward joy and tomfoolery of his performances masked a dark and depressing personal life, and instituted the modern figure of the glum, brooding comedian. Stott has written both a definitive biography of Grimaldi, and a highly nuanced portrait of Georgian theatre in London, from the frequent riots at Drury Lane, to the spectacular excess of its arch rival Sadler's Wells.

This year's Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, titled Fountain Of The Baroque: Italian Pioneers From Montiverdi To Vivaldi, runs from 13th to 22nd May. It takes the 400th anniversary of Monteverdi's Vespers, one of the best loved works in the Baroque repertoire, as the starting point for a celebration of the leading role taken by Italian composers in the creation of the Baroque style. Highlights include: the 50 strong European Union Baroque Orchestra performing concertos by Corelli, Handel and Muffat; the Italian IMAGINARIUM Ensemble with a journey through Italian violin music from Monteverdi to Corelli; and Handel's oratorio La Resurrezione performed by the Gabrieli Consort and Players. Concerts are mainly at St John's Smith Square, plus events at Westminster Abbey and St Peter's Eaton Square. Further information can be found on the LFBM web site, the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles will head the cast of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals, the classic comedy of romance, confusion and commitment, set in Regency Bath, directed by Peter Hall, which will reopen the Theatre Royal Bath following the refurbishment of the auditorium, from 7th September.

The Rumour Machine says: that as part of the '25 anniversary celebrations' of the musical Les Miserables, in addition to the ongoing West End production, and the touring production playing a season at the Barbican, Cameron Mackintosh may mount a third simultaneous concert production at the O2 Arena (the bottom of that barrel must be even thicker than we thought); and that Kim Cattrall may star in Antony And Cleopatra at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, prior to a Broadway transfer of the current West End production of Noel Coward's Private Lives with Matthew Macfadyen. The Rumour Machine grinds on.