News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 11th January 2008

Roy Dotrice is returning to the role he created 40 years ago, as the 17th century author and antiquarian John Aubrey, in the one man show Brief Lives, written and directed by Patrick Garland, opening a prospective pre West End tour at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester on 7th February. Adapted from the 'Memoirs, Miscellanies, Letters and Jottings of John Aubrey' the show paints a portrait of London in the late 1600s, with anecdotes of Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Walter Raleigh and other personalities of the time. Previous performances in London, New York, and on international tours gained Dotrice a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the greatest number of solo performances: 1,782.

Outrage continues to spread over Arts Council England's proposal to withdraw funding to 194 arts organisations as the 15th January appeal deadline approaches. At a meeting at the Young Vic organised by the actors' union Equity, 500 leading actors of stage and screen passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the organisation, and demanded a delay in the decision making process. Outgoing chief executive Peter Hewitt put ACE's case, but failed to impress the meeting. Equity general secretary Christine Payne warned Hewitt that ACE's credibility would be "fundamentally and possibly irreparably damaged" if it did not alter its course. The Theatrical Management Association, the leading body representing middle and large scale performing arts companies throughout the UK, has similarly issued a statement expressing "grave concern" and accusing ACE of lacking both the "courage" and the "competence" to fulfil its duties.

A festival celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Royal Charter of the Inner and Middle Temples will include a production of Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet, with Juliet Rylance, David Sturzaker and Mark Rylance, directed by Tamara Harvey, in Middle Temple Hall, from 20th August to 12th September, presented by Theatre of Memory. Among the other festival events will be a production of Purcell's Dido And Aeneas, a schools showcase of 8 minute Shakespeare cameos, recitals, guided tours, mock trials, advocacy demonstrations, and symposia on the role of English law and the bar.

On The Casting Couch: Alex Jennings and Toby Spence will join Kristin Chenoweth in Candide, opening at the London Coliseum on 23rd June.

The spring season at Nottingham Playhouse will include the Shared Experience production of Helen Edmundson's two part adaptation of Tolstoy's War And Peace, directed by Nancy Meckler and Polly Teale, the epic story depicting the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on Russian society over a period of 15 years, with a company of 15 playing 72 roles between them, from 1st February; a stage version of On The Waterfront, adapted and directed by Steven Berkoff, from the 1954 film by Budd Schulberg and Stan Silverman, about mob violence and corruption in the docks of 1950s New York, from 18th April; Stephen Poliakoff's Breaking The Silence, about a family in post-revolutionary Russia, who lose their palatial home and are accommodated in a dilapidated imperial train, directed by Esther Richardson, from 16th May; and a revival of its production of Philippa Pearce's 1950s children's story Tom's Midnight Garden, adapted by David Wood, in which a boy hears the grandfather clock strike 13, and travels in time and space to a beautiful and mysterious Victorian garden, directed by Andrew Breakwell, from 20th June.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the Kneehigh Theatre/Birmingham Rep staging of Brief Encounter, David Lean's 1945 film based on the Noel Coward play Still Life, which explores betrayal and adultery through three separate love stories set in a railway station, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, and featuring Naomi Frederick and Tristan Frederick, has found a London home. It will play at The Cinema, the largest auditorium in the Cineworld cinema complex in the Haymarket, opening on 17th February. The building, originally the Carlton Theatre, was designed for use as both a cinema and live theatre. The season will be presented by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers.

Stage Ticketing International, a subsidiary of Amsterdam based Stage Entertainment, has purchased See Tickets, Britain's second largest ticketing company, from the Really Useful Group, whose West End theatre box office services it provides. Last year Stage Entertainment secured a long term lease on the Shaftesbury Theatre, where it is currently producing Hairspray. Stage Ticketing International provides tickets across Europe, and combined with See Tickets, will sell over 40m tickets each year.

Forthcoming productions at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston will include the British premiere of Ariel Dorfman's Purgatorio, which poses the question "what if the person who holds the key to my salvation is the one I have hurt most in this world?", with Adjoa Andoh and Patrick Baladi, directed by Daniele Guerra, from 15th January; The Blind, based on the Victorian play by Maurice Maeterlinck, about blind patients lost in a forest, reworked and directed by Jack McNamara, with Margo Cargill, Amelia Cavalho, Tim Gebbels, Andrew Hodgson, Karina Jones and Gerard McDermott, from 4th February; Double Portrait, written and directed by Tom Shkolnik, with Jodie McNee and Nicole Scott as two sisters, one running away from her demons, the other hiding in a dark room afraid of the world, from 4th March; and Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy Of The People, in a contemporary adaptation by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, the story of one man's struggle to do the right thing and speak the truth in the face of extreme social intolerance, from 25th March.

The spring season at Birmingham Repertory Theatre includes: Henrik Ibsen's The Lady From The Sea, in a new translation by Mike Poulton, the story of a woman in a loveless marriage haunted by a lover from her past, with Claire Price, directed by Lucy Bailey, from 7th March; Tom Stoppard's Hapgood, which combines a female spymaster's search for the source of a leak and quantum mechanics, with Josie Lawrence, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, from 11th April, a co-production with the West Yorkshire Playhouse; and the musical Our House, book by Tim Firth, which weaves the songs of Madness into a story following the two courses a London boy's life could take after he commits a petty crime, directed by Matthew Warchus, with choreography by Peter Darling, opening a national tour from 29th May.

Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen Of Carthage, an epic tale of ancient Greeks and Gods, adapted and developed by angels in the architecture, with James Greaves, Cassandra Friend, Jeremy Legat, Jake Maskall, Richard Nutter, Sarah Thom, directed by Rebecca McCutcheon, will be performed as a promenade production, with music and songs, in the state apartments at Kensington Palace (the first performance of its kind) from 4th to 23rd February.

The Rumour Machine says: that Jim Steinman is working with book writer Stephen Clarke on a multimedia Cirque du Soleil style show based on his songs from Meatloaf's three Bat Out Of Hell albums; that High School Musical, the stage version of the Disney film, which is about to launch a national tour, will make its West End debut in the summer; and that the National Theatre will stage Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage, with Fiona Shaw, directed by Deborah Warner, next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.