News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 10th October 1997

Liverpool Playhouse is in financial crisis, and has gone into administration for the second time in six years. Once again accountants Ernst and Young have taken charge of the theatre's financial management. The situation was resolved last time by the venue's debtors accepting part payment on what they were owed, and producer Bill Kenwright assuming control under a management agreement. That arrangement came to an end in March last year. There are rumours that in order to secure its future, the Playhouse may be merged with the neighbouring Everyman Theatre, in a joint management structure such as exists in Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh. A number of other regional theatres are thought to be sailing similarly close to the financial wind.

Meanwhile at Chichester, producer Duncan Weldon has said that the venue needs an annual subsidy of 500,000 if it is to continue operating all year round. The theatre breaks even on its own productions, but makes a loss operating as a receiving house during the rest of the year. If the subsidy is not forthcoming, the only alternative is to revert to a twenty week summer season, closing from September 1998 to May 1999. Weldon is looking to bring two of this year's plays, The Magistrate with Ian Richardson, and Kathleen Turner as Tallulah into the West End.

Peter Hall is taking a jaundiced view of the future for both his company, and the Old Vic when they leave it. He says that the Theatre Royal Haymarket (his preferred choice) and the Gielgud are unenthusiastic about housing the company, because they doubt the economic viability of repertoire. Hall claims commercial theatres are only looking for long running plays featuring three people in one room - such as Art. As to the future of the Old Vic, he says it could become the "national lap dancing centre" unless someone saves it, drawing a parallel with the Hippodrome. While no longer a theatre, the Hippodrome technically does not break the stipulation that it must be used for performance.

An international theatre and dance season is to be staged at the Barbican Theatre from next March when the RSC goes on tour. The theatre programme will include Dostoyevsky's The Posessed by the Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg, the Ninagawa Company's production of Hamlet, A Romanian Orestia by the National Theatre of Craiova, and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of Kaufman and Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner. Visiting dance companies will include Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp,Siobhan Davies and the Royal Ballet.

The producers of Shehallion, a Scottish music and dance extravaganza currently at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, are hoping to bring the show to London. It is being talked of as the Scottish Riverdance, and they are hoping to emulate its success. The musical score is by Douglas Whyte, and it features composer and singer Mairi MacInnes, and Hazel Ann Crawford among a cast of sixty. It was conceived by David Ballinger and is produced by Mike Rowland.

The RSC production of The Comedy Of Errors just finishing at the Young Vic is the first of four at the venue. It will be followed by transfers from Stratford of Henry VIII and (despite the reviews) Tennesee Williams' Camino Real, and a new production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, starring Stephen Dillane and directed by Katie Mitchell.

The Rumour Machine says: that the RSC production of Cyrano de Bergerac with Anthony Sher has been signed for the Lyric Theatre without the producer of Maddie even being told; that friction during rehearsals of Chicago almost led to Ute Lemper deciding to withdraw; and that Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down The Wind is set for the Aldwych Theatre in June. The Rumour Machine grinds on.