News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 10th August 2001

The National Theatre has announced its autumn season. New work will include Lee Hall's version of Herman Heijermans Dutch social realist classic The Good Hope, a period story about a fishing boat in search of a catch on which its community depends, directed by Bill Bryden; Gregory Burke's first play, Gagarin Way, a contemporary urban tale of a kidnapping which goes wrong, with Billy McElhaney, Michael Moreland, Michael Nardone and Maurice RoŽves, directed by John Tiffany, from the Traverse Edinburgh as part of the Springboards programme; and the British premiere of August Wilson's Jitney, set in a Pittsburgh cab company, directed by Marion McClinton. Revivals will include John Osborne's Luther with Rufus Sewell, Richard Griffiths, Geoffrey Hutchings, Maxine Peake, Malcolm Sinclair and Timothy West, directed by Peter Gill; Harold Pinter's No Man's Land, with Corin Redgrave and John Wood; and the National Theatre of Brent production of The Mysteries Of Sex, performed by Patrick Barlow and John Ramm, directed by Martin Duncan.

Confirming previous rumours, the National's plans for next year will include: Glen Close making her UK stage debut in Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire directed by Trevor Nunn, in the autumn; Martin Clunes making his National debut as Moliere's Tartuffe in a new version by Ranjit Bolt, directed by Lindsay Posner; Peter Hall directing Euripides The Bacchae, in a new version by Colin Teevan, with music by Harrison Birtwistle; a new play by Nicholas Wright, currently titled The House of Secrets, directed by Richard Eyre; Tom Stoppard's trilogy set in 19th century Russia, which follows the three main characters over twenty five years, directed by Trevor Nunn; Sebastian Barry's new play Hinterland, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, in a co-production with Out Of Joint and the Abbey Theatre Dublin; and a new version of Buchner's Woyzeck, directed by Katie Mitchell.

A project called Transformation will see a £1.5 million conversion of the Lyttelton Theatre and foyer into two smaller spaces for an initial six month season of new writing and experimental work at low prices. 14 new pieces will be staged for short runs between May and September next year. The Lyttleton stage will become the Lyttelton Arena, a 650 seat in the round space in which no member of the audience will be will be more than 25 feet from the actors. The foyer, currently used as an exhibition gallery, will become the Lyttelton Loft, an even more intimate space with 100 seats. Both spaces will be aimed at attracting the under 30s, in non-conventional theatregoing audiences, and writers and directors. To that end a new bar will feature an Internet cafe and a barbecue area, as well as cheaper beer and wine, and a late drinking licence. Mick Gordon has joined the National to programme the spaces. At the end of the six months, the Lyttelton will be returned to its current form for A Streetcar Named Desire, but if successful, the Transformation project will be repeated for further seasons.

The National has jointly commissioned 25 playwrights, including Sebastian Barry, Alan Bennett, Jim Cartwright, Sarah Daniels, Kevin Elyot, Peter Gill, Tanika Gupta, Zinnie Harris, Hanif Kureishi, Terry Johnson, Charlotte Jones, Patrick Marber, Adrian Mitchell, Philip Ridley and Stephen Sondheim, to create The Chain Play in honour of the theatre's 25th birthday. Each writer will contribute a scene, picking up the story from the previous person and taking it wherever they choose. The work will appear daily, scene by scene on the National's web site throughout October, culminating in a one off gala performance on 26th.

Edinburgh Fringe Report: To general relief all round, controversy has been created in the first week. The Age of Consent, by American writer Peter Morris at the Pleasance, is based on the James Bulger case. It is a series of monologues in which a teenager relates his experiences of committing a murder and his process of rehabilitation. Morris is an old hand at causing a stir - his offering at last year's Fringe was The Second Amendment Club, "inspired" by the shootings that took place at Denver's Columbine High School. . . First week Fringe ticket sales have broken all past records and have already topped the £1m mark. . . The Assembly Rooms has announced the Jack Tinker Spirit Of The Fringe Award, which will be presented at the National Museum of Scotland on 23rd August. The aim is an annual award for a distinguished performer, director, venue, or individual performance that epitomises the spirit of the Fringe.

Edinburgh has a rival! The New York International Fringe Festival, running from 10th to 26th August, takes place in 20 venues around Lower East Side of Manhattan. It features over 180 theatre, dance, puppetry, spoken word, and multi-media productions, plus several free outdoor Fringe Al Fresco shows, and various other workshops and discussions, plus literary and art events. There are participants from 16 American cities and 18 other countries. Further information can be found on the FringeNYC web site via the link from the On-line Guides section of TheatreNet.

Northern Ballet Theatre's next production will be a dance version of Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire, which will receive its world premiere at the Alhambra Theatre Bradford on 24th September, at the start of the company's autumn tour. Directed by Patricia Doyle and choreographed by Didy Veldman, it will be performed to a blues score by Philip Feeney. This month is a time of new beginnings for NBT, as it welcomes its new artistic director David Nixon, and moves back into its refurbished headquarters.

Northern Broadsides will be touring two works by Blake Morrison this autumn, opening at its base at The Viaduct, Dean Clough Halifax from 6th to 15th September. A new version of Sophocles Oedipus will be rendered in the company's trademark northern vernacular. It will be paired with a revival of The Cracked Pot, based on Kleist's Der Zerbrochene Krug, which is a farce set in Yorkshire in 1810, about a judge's attempts to blackmail his way out of trouble, when a family heirloom is destroyed. Artistic director Barrie Rutter will direct both plays. Further information can be found on the Northern Broadsides web site via the link from the UK Theatre Companies section of TheatreNet.

The Fantasticks, the world's longest running musical, which has been playing at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village since 3rd May 1960, may be about to close. A new landlord, who wants to refurbish the 135 seat living-room-like theatre, coupled with a dip in sales, has resulted in 'last weeks' notices appearing. The small seating capacity, combined with a $40 seat price that hasn't risen for 10 years (compared with new $100 top Broadway price) have also put a squeeze on the legendary musical. Although it has been close to the edge before and survived, anyone who hasn't seen it should go now. There have been over 12,000 productions of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's show in America, and over 700 in at least 67 other countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The well known names who have played in different American productions include Jerry Orbach, F. Murray Abraham, Elliott Gould, Liza Minnelli, Richard Chamberlain, John Carradine and Robert Goulet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Ben Elton's script for the film of The Phantom Of The Opera has been rejected after a reading; that Swing!, the all singing, all dancing, big band Broadway hit, which originally featured Ann Hampton Calloway and Everett Bradley, may be on its way to London; and that Kathleen Turner may return to the role of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, as Tallulah, her one woman show about the actress Tallulah Bankhead, which premiered at Chichester in 1997, failed to make it to Broadway. The Rumour Machine grinds on.