Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
The British street dance and percussion phenomenon Stomp, is returning to London for a Christmas season at the Roundhouse from 17th November to 27th December. The show, which was created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, has been touring the world since its last record breaking appearance at the Festival Hall three years ago. This will be its longest run in London so far. The producers are Glynis Henderson and Yes/No Productions. Henderson is also bringing Ennio Marchetto the paper power performer, together with Hitchcock's Half Hour, to the Lyric Hammersmith from 2nd to 21st November, following their appearances on the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Royal Opera House has finally concluded that only a completely fresh start can cure its problems. The Royal Opera will close down after its Christmas commitments, making production staff redundant, until Covent Garden reopens - currently scheduled for December 1999. It has conceded the folly of trying to stage new work after failing to secure an alternative residency during rebuilding. The Royal Ballet will continue to perform its existing repertoire on overseas and regional tours of a strictly commercial nature. The Opera House management has come to an agreement with the Department of Culture for increased funding for a new regime, which will operate under revised working practices, with more live television transmissions, and a greater commitment to touring in the regions. This will leave slots available at Covent Garden for outside companies and commercial lets, which could generate valuable income. This is similar to the system employed by English National Opera at the Coliseum, which has regular seasons by English National Ballet and visiting companies from abroad. The new studio theatre, whose purpose is to showcase new opera and attract a new audience, will only be brought into operation if sponsorship can be raised to fund it.
Booking is now open for The Royal Shakespeare Company's winter season in Stratford. Main House productions are: Richard III starring Robert Lindsay, Anna Carteret and David Yelland, directed by Elijah Moshinsky; a new dramatisation by Adrian Mitchell of C S Lewis' The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, directed by Adrian Noble; and The Winter's Tale with Antony Sher, directed by Gregory Dorman. The season starts on 14th October with a two week preview of the Barbican production of Sheridan's The School for Scandal with Kenneth Cranham, Emma Fielding and Matthew MacFayden, directed by Declan Donnellan. Swan Theatre productions starting on 1st December are: Turgenev's A Month In The Country in a new version by Brian Friel, with Jayne Ashbourne, Darrel D'Silva and Sara Stewart, directed by Michael Attenborough; and Troilus And Cressida, featuring William Housten and Jayne Ashbourne, directed by Michael Boyd, transferring from London.
The future of Broadway's Tony Awards looks uncertain, as the partnership of the two organisations responsible for their staging seems to be at an end after thirty years. The rights to the awards belong to the American Theatre Wing, which is a charitable institution. The ceremony has traditionally been staged in association with the League of American Theatres and Producers, the commercial organisation which promotes Broadway theatre. LATP has successfully undertaken a number of marketing initiatives in the last few years, and now wants to exploit the Tonys in the same way. ATW has rejected their ideas as too commercial. The present agreement runs out after next year's ceremony, and although negotiations have been going on for some months, neither side will accept the other's proposals. Both the LATP and ATW's Tony web sites can be found via links from our Organisations section.
It may be indelicate to point this out, but I do so as a warning. Harold King's City Ballet of London, having lost their original patron (Diana, Princess of Wales) last August, were pleased to announce a replacement a month ago, as reported here. It was Lord Rothermere, who unfortunately died on the first night of their season at the Peacock Theatre. Obviously they are on the lookout again, so if you get a call . . .
The Rumour Machine says: that reports of rehearsals of the National's production of Antony And Cleopatra with Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman having fallen into disarray, when Cedric, the live snake they were using for the asp scene escaped and disappeared, must surely owe more to the fevered imagination of their publicity machine than reality. (It is particularly suspicious that Cedric was the understudy.) They'll be telling us that front of house staff have been eaten by alligators next. The Rumour Machine grinds on.
Cool Britannia has reared its ugly head again. The Foreign Office, continuing the government's "year zero" policies, is decreeing that all traditional works of art must be removed from our embassies and other buildings around the world, and replaced with work by approved artists. The relentless pursuit of the trivial and ephemeral means that in many cases they won't even be what now passes for a work of art. We are to be reduced to the bedsit culture of posters. There are a series of these, which are divided vertically with the left hand side "Old England" image in black and white contrasting with the right hand side "New Britain" in colour. Unfortunately this only shows up the icons of Cool Britannia for the hollow sham that they are. Thus a Hardy Amies suit is matched with the headline seeking tat from the current catwalk, and the rear end of a Stubbs horse merges into a Damien Hurst pickled sheep. Can't they see how foolish it makes us look by concentrating on the output of the rock'n'frock merchants? Apparently even the furniture must be replaced - that will come as a godsend to MFI. Needless to say, the performing arts, the one genuinely cultural area in which we do lead the world, is ignored - presumably because it is too esoteric and out of touch with real people - even though more people go to theatre performances than attend football matches. Is this the most uncultured government this country has ever had?