News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 11th December 1998

Just months after the Richard Rodgers redevelopment plan for the South Bank Centre was finally abandoned, comes another more radical proposal, but its piecemeal approach may succeed where all the others have failed. The plan involves building replacements for the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery on what is now a car park, west of Hungerford railway bridge, adjoining the Jubilee Gardens. The existing buildings and walkways would then be removed, and the Festival Hall refurbished. Finally, in the space created, a new complex for the British Film Institute would be built, extending the Museum Of the Moving Image, and creating a multiplex cinema and other retail/restaurant facilities. The plan is a strong runner, as it already has the approval of the Department of Culture, English Heritage and the Arts Council, and is masterminded by the new South Bank Centre chairman Elliott Bernerd, a reformed property developer.

As forecast here last week, the Hampstead Theatre production of David Halliwell's Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs is to transfer to the West End for an eight week season, opening at the Comedy Theatre on 20th January. It retains the same cast of Ewan McGregor, Joe Duttine, Sean Gilder, Lou Gish and Nicholas Tennant. Denis Lawson is the director, and the producer is Robert Fox. McGregor is reported to be enjoying the live theatre experience so much that he is keen to repeat it.

The acclaimed Italian opera company Arena di Verona, is to make its first world tour next year. It will appear in London at Wembley Arena - slightly less atmospheric than its home at the Coliseum in Verona. There will be three performances each of Nabucco, Madam Butterfly and Aida from 11th November.

The spring season at the National Theatre sees a return to an ensemble company in a repertoire performance schedule, which will include Troilus And Cressida, and the Bernstein-Wheeler-Sondheim musical Candide, with Daniel Evans in the title role, both jointly directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird; Gorky's Summerfolk; Edward Bulwer-Lytton's comedy Money; and The Merchant Of Venice, starring Henry Goodman, also directed by Trevor Nunn.

The Traverse Theatre Company is remounting Liz Lockhead's soap opera style play Perfect Days, which attracted much attention at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It will play at the Hampstead Theatre from 6th to 30th January, prior to a Scottish tour. Siobhan Redmond leads the original cast, and the director is John Tiffany.

English National Opera's Spring season at the Coliseum will consist of two continuing Jonathan Miller productions: Rossini's The Barber Of Seville with Christopher Maltman and Lesley Garrett, and Verdi's La traviata with Sandra Ford, John Hudson and Christopher Booth-Jones; a revival of Martha Clarke's production of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice with Artur Stefanowicz and Margaret Richardson; and two new productions: Wagner's Parsifal directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, with Kim Begley and Jonathan Summers, and Boito's Mephistopheles directed by Ian Judge, with Alastair Miles, David Rendall and Susan Patterson. There is a programme of workshops and events to accompany the new productions.

The London Dance Network has been set up with a 75,000 lottery grant, to co-ordinate information for the dance community and its audience. Over fifty dance organisations (large and small) are affiliated. It has established its own web site, and part of the funding will used to assist companies not already online to join the web. Find out more via the link from our Organisations section.

Christopher Plummer will return to London next winter in William Luce's play Barrymore, directed by Gene Saks. Plummer's portrayal of the actor, whose appetite for drink and women was legendary, won a Tony for Best Actor during an eight month Broadway run last year. He was touring in America, but this has been brought to an abrupt end, by the troubled Canadian based producer and theatre managent Livent. The company is struggling to recover from financial difficulties, by dramatically scaling down its operations, concentrating on major long running productions.

The administration of the National Lottery has been severely criticised by the Theatres Trust for being too free with money initially, and too stingy now. Director Peter Longman claimed that the huge backlog of refurbishment work needed on venues (caused by years of neglect) has hardly been touched, yet money is drying up. He said that the initial euphoria, created by higher Lottery receipts than expected, resulted in the unwise funding of some grandiose schemes which will turn out to be white elephants: "Rarely, if ever, in the arts has so much money and effort been wasted." This has now been reined in under a politically correct regime, which has resulted in a moratorium on funding anything in London, and an unrealistically low ceiling for projects in the regions. As a result, overstretched arts organisations, which have devoted time and money preparing bids, have seen them dismissed out of hand. As Chairman Sir John Drummond said: "It's no good producing retrospective limits on grants without examining each case on its merits." Meanwhile the Arts Council has disclosed that the administration of Lottery awards cost 23m last year.

The Rumour Machine says: that Mohammed al-Fayed is part of a consortium negotiating to buy the Playhouse Theatre for around 2m, and rename it after the Princess Of Wales. Current owner Patrick Sulaiman had already considered changing the name before he put it on the market. It goes without saying that if this happens, the opportunities for confusion between the Prince Of Wales and the Princess Of Wales theatres will be infinite. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . If you've always wanted to join the street cred sub division of Show Business (where energy often counts for more than talent) be advised that Stomp is auditioning, on its current home turf of The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm at 9.30am on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th December. So get your bovver boots on and get down there.