News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 11th August 2006

There is an extravagance of premieres in the 28th Dance Umbrella, running from 21st September to 5th November, presenting the best of national and international contemporary dance, with 22 companies performing at venues across London. Highlights include: Merce Cunningham's spectacular Ocean at The Roundhouse, with the dancers surrounded by the audience, and the audience surrounded by an orchestra of over 100 musicians playing two separate scores concurrently, without a conductor, and cued by giant digital clocks; The Forsythe Company with Three Atmospheric Studies, one of the first pieces made specifically for the company by William Forsythe; Ros Warby performing Swift, a solo piece accompanied by live cello and film; Czech/Italian company Deja Donne with My Name Is King, based on the desire to separate the human spirit from the material world; and Mmm…, the second part Michael Clark's Stravinsky Project, set to The Rite of Spring. Full details of programmes and venues can be found on the Dance Umbrella web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

English Touring Theatre's production of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage And Her Children, translated by Michael Hofmann, about a woman's epic struggle for survival during the Thirty Years War, starring Diana Quick, directed by Stephen Unwin, opens a national tour at Malvern Theatres on 7th October.

The new season at the Theatre Royal Stratford East will comprise: Piped Piper, a contemporary street dance interpretation of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, developed by designer turned director Ultz and Boy Blue Entertainment, with a company of 21 dancers, opening on 3rd October; Township Stories, by Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom and Presley Chweneyagae, a violent crime thriller revolving around the reality of life in the new South Africa, featuring Zenzo Ngqobe, directed by Grootboom, currently playing at the Edinburgh Fringe, opening on 18th October; and The Snow Queen, a new version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale of good versus evil, opening on 6th December.

The final shows of the current season have been announced by Sheffield Theatres: a new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's Don't Look Now, about a couple who visit Venice after their daughter is drowned and meet someone whom claims to be psychic and have visions of the dead girl, written by Nell Leyshon, and conceived and directed by Lucy Bailey, opening in the Lyceum Theatre on 27th February; and Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, directed by Jonathan Miller, opening at the Crucible Theatre on 20th March.

A biographical musical about the composer and lyricist Lionel Bart, It's A Fine Life, with book by Chris Bond, and Bart's songs as the score, directed by Bob Carlton, with choreography by Elizabeth Marsh, will receive its premiere at the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch on 29th August. The company comprises Richard Brightiff, Diana Croft, Matt Devitt, James Earl Adair, Karen Fisher-Pollard, Alison Harding, Simon Jessop, Mari Lawson, Philip Reed and Steve Simmonds.

Forthcoming productions at the New End Theatre in Hampstead include the world premiere of Natalia Pelevine's In Your Hands, based on the events when the audience in a Moscow Theatre was taken hostage by terrorists, opening on 13th September; Pandora Colin in You Might As Well Live, by Christian Spurrier, a one person show about the American writer and wit Dorothy Parker, directed by Caroline Leslie, opening on 16th October; the European premiere of Hillel Mitelpunkt's Driver/Painter, in which an artist returning to her derelict childhood home encounters a man with whom she apparently has nothing in common, but…, translated by Leanne Raday, directed by Lee Gilat, opening on 18th October; and the European premiere of Oren Safdie's Private Jokes, Public Places, a comedy examining intellectual pretension and the failure of postmodernist culture, directed by Leon Rubin, opening on 8th November.

New York TheatreNet: Joan Collins and Linda Evans will play two fading movie stars in James Kirkwood's Legends!, with Joe Farrell, Tonye Patano, Will Holman and Ethan Matthews, directed by John Bowab, which opens an extensive North American tour at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto on 12th September. In the backstage comedy, the actresses are persuaded to star together in a Broadway show (despite the fact that they have hated each other for decades) by an unscrupulous producer who misleads them into believing that they will be appearing with Paul Newman. Life imitated art in the ill fated original pre-Broadway tour, starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin, directed (or refereed) by Clifford Williams, which never made it to the Great White Way, spawning Kirkwood's infamous backstage expose Diary Of A Mad Playwright.

George Irving, Anthony Howell and Katy Odey will star in the first ever stage version of John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, adapted by Mark Healy, directed by Kate Saxon, which opens a regional tour at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford on 30th August. A man risks everything that he has in pursuing an obsessive quest to discover the secret of a mysterious young woman.

Rambert Dance Company's autumn tour, which opens at The Lowry in Salford on 27th September, will feature four premieres: a so far untitled work choreographed by Darshan Singh Bhuller, inspired by L S Lowry's approach to his paintings and response to his surroundings; Lady Into Fox, a reworking by Amanda Eyles and Mark Baldwin, of a surreal narrative piece about the metamorphosis of a woman into a vixen, and her disastrous bid for freedom, inspired by Andree Howard's 1939 seminal Rambert production, set to a score by Benjamin Pope; and two works created in workshops by emerging choreographers, both of which will feature costumes by fashion designer Roland Mouret, Transit, by Melanie Teall, an exploration of space and movement for a solo female dancer, and Verge, by Cameron McMillan, a fragmented exploration of change for eight dancers, to a score by Elspeth Brooke.

The autumn season at Greenwich Theatre includes: Les Dennis, Mike McShane, Jeremy Edwards, Kelly Ryan, Jim Field-Smith and Jennifer Tolliday in Marlon Brando's Corset, a satire on celebrity culture by Guy Jones, conceived and directed by Ed Curtis, direct from the Edinburgh Fringe; Compass Theatre Company's production of Charles Dickens's Hard Times, adapted by Stephen Jeffreys, directed by Gareth Tudor Price; Red Shift's Vertigo, adapted and directed by Jonathan Holloway, from Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's psychological thriller set in Paris in 1940, which inspired the Alfred Hitchcock film; Salad Days, the musical about a young couple who find a magic piano, book and lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade, and music by Julian Slade, with Vicki Michelle, directed by Paul Townshend, with choreography by Jenny Arnold; and Sleeping Beauty, by Andrew Pollard, directed by Phil Willmott.