News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 10th July 2009

The Society Of London Theatre is presenting the 12th Kids Week in the West End, designed to introduce young people to the theatregoing experience, with thousands of free tickets and special events. Once again this year it has double the fun, as it is extended to a fortnight, running from 14th to 28th August. Children between 5 and 16 can go free (when accompanied by a paying adult) to 30 West End shows, with up to two additional children at half price. There will be 28 accompanying events taking place during the two weeks, including backstage tours, workshops, classes, storytelling and 'meet the cast' opportunities. There are also freebies and discounts at restaurants, and on travel and accommodation packages. Booking opens on 14th July. Further information can be found on the Kids Week web site via the link opposite.

The British premiere of Not The Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy), libretto by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez, a comic oratorio based on the 1979 film Life Of Brian, will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on 23rd October, as part of a 40th anniversary celebration of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Described as 'baroque'n'roll', it tells the story of reluctant revolutionary Brian, who is mistaken for the Messiah and condemned to die on the cross. The cast will include William Ferguson, Shannon Mercer, Rosalind Plowright, Christopher Purves and Eric Idle, plus guest appearances from Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Carol Cleveland and Neil Innes.

The Barbican as announced additions to its autumn season, including in the Theatre: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan with the British premiere of Wind Shadow, a study of motion created through the monochromatic palettes of black and white and the use of light and shadow; James Thierree performing Raoul, a new solo show in which acrobatics, mysterious transformations, music and dance collide; and the return of the Stratford East Boy/Blue Entertainment show Pied Piper, a hip-hop street dance interpretation of Robert Browning's poem, music by Michael Asante, choreographed by Kenrick Sandy, directed and designed by Ultz; and in the Pit: Levantes Dance Theatre's Room Temperature Romance, created and performed by Eleni Edipidi and Bethanie Harrison, about the moments that mean nothing and everything in life's daily routine; The TEAM with Architecting, a multi-media time-bending musical epic about mourning and healing, revolving around moments of apocalypse, disaster and change in America; Told by an Idiot with The Fahrenheit Twins, adapted from Michel Faber's dark and fantastical story set on a remote arctic exploration station, with Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter, directed by Matthew Dunster; and Cabaret Simon, a variety show created for 4 to 10 year olds, directed by Lone Twin and Stuart Silver, co-devised with Guy Dartnell.

Alan Cumming is to perform his cabaret show Alan Cumming: I Bought A Blue Car Today, combining an eclectic choice of songs with personal anecdotes, accompanied by Lance Horne, at the Vaudeville Theatre from 1st to 6th September. The show has previously played the Lincoln Center in New York and the Sydney Opera House. The producers are Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Jim Cartwright's The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, about a mousey girl who lives through impersonating singers such as Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey, with Diana Vickers, directed by Terry Johnson, will open at the Vaudeville Theatre on 20th October. The producer is Nica Burns.

Victoria Wood is to direct a new version of Talent, her play with music set backstage during a talent night at a local night club, with Suzie Toase, opening at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark on 23rd September. It is a co-production with the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness, where it will run from 27th August.

The exhibition of the preserved remains of the Rose Theatre, the first Elizabethan playhouse on Bankside, is now showing a film featuring extracts from all of Christopher Marlowe's plays, many of which were first staged there. The film, The Genius Of Christopher Marlowe, which features an all star cast, including Frances Barber, Joseph Fiennes, Henry Goodman, Ian McKellan, Alan Rickman, Antony Sher and Harriet Walter, will run daily until 30th August. Further information can be found on The Rose web site via the link from London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The autumn season at the Rose Theatre in Kingston will include transfers of the Peter Hall Company/Theatre Royal Bath productions of a double bill of Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version, about a cowed schoolmaster who finds the courage to make a stand against his bullying headmaster and his unfaithful wife, and Anton Chekhov's Swan Song, in a new translation by Stephen Mulrine, where an elderly actor wakes up in a dressing room after giving his final performance to an almost empty theatre, both featuring Peter Bowles, Charles Edwards and James Laurenson, and directed by Peter Hall, from 7th September; and Michael Frayn's Balmoral, set in the royal residence in 1937, where a warden oversees a group of recalcitrant writers, and the imminent arrival of a government inspector, with Rik Mayall, directed by Alan Strachan, from 14th September; plus Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce, the story of four couples, at different stages in their relationships, whose lives intersect over the course of an evening - with self-assembly furniture as an added complication, also directed by Hall, and August Strindberg's Miss Julie, about a sexual liaison between a footman and his master's daughter, directed by Stephen Unwin, playing in repertoire from 15th October; and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the iconic 18th century adventure story of swashbuckling pirates and the search for buried treasure in the Caribbean, in a new adaptation by Karen Louise Hebden, from 11th December.

The Theatre 503 Battersea production of Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, with David Harewood and Lorainne Burroughs, directed by James Dacre, is to transfer to Trafalgar Studios 1, opening on 20th July. The play imagines a meeting in a hotel room on the night before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, in which he is forced to confront his past and the future of his people. It will be presented by Sonia Friedman Productions and Jean Doumanian, Tali Pelman for Ambassador Theatre Group, Bob Bartner and Marla Rubin Productions.

Street dance company ZooNation's Into The Hoods, a hip-hop urban take on the story of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Into The Woods, which features characters from a number of fairytales, (but using hip-hop songs) directed and choreographed by Kate Prince, will play a season at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank from 16th December to 10th January.

And Finally . . . Actors' union Equity is to launch a campaign to reintroduce theatre cats into London's historic theatres, as part of its ongoing bid to improve working conditions in the West End. The move follows complaints of rats, sewage and poor backstage facilities in a number of the capital's ageing venues, and forms part of a strategy, announced earlier this year, to lobby theatre owners to rectify the problems. Once upon a time most theatres had a resident cat (who occasionally made unscheduled appearances on stage) but in recent years, they have disappeared, as they retired or moved on to the great basket in the sky, and were not replaced.