News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 13th February 2004

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Hollywood actors Julia Stiles and Aaron Eckhart will make their West End debut in David Mamet's Oleanna, directed by Lindsay Posner, opening at the Garrick Theatre on 22nd April. The play examines political correctness, as an American university student accuses her male professor of sexual harassment when faced with failing her course. The show is produced by Edward Snape for Fiery Angel, and Clare Lawrence and Anna Waterhouse for Out of the Blue in association with Theatreshare.

Scamp, the theatre and film production company set up by Sam Mendes, Caro Newling and Pippa Harris, has announced its initial group of projects. The first will be the UK premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's Off Broadway hit Fuddy Meers, a comedy about a woman who loses her memory every night - until she is kidnapped, starring Julia Mackenzie, directed by Angus Jackson, which will play a prospective pre West End season at Birmingham Rep from 16th April to 8th May, co-produced with Fiery Angel. In the pipeline are: a contemporary version of J P Miller's Days Of Wine And Roses, a bittersweet study of couple and their struggle with alcoholism, by Owen McCafferty, set in Ireland; Howard Brenton and David Hare's press Baron drama Pravda, directed by Edward Hall; a stage adaptation of the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch film To Be Or Not To Be, a black comedy in which a Polish theatre company outwits the occupying forces, by Nick Whitby; the UK premiere of Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize winning play Anna In The Tropics, that parallels Anna Karenina but is set in a Florida cigar factory in 1929; Macbeth directed by Katie Mitchell; a newly commissioned play by Heidi Thomas; and a stage musical adaptation of the 2001 animated film Shrek, in which a reclusive green ogre and a chatterbox donkey go on a quest to rescue a no nonsense Princess for a tyrannical midget Lord, with a book by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Pollock's, the world's leading toy theatre museum, which has links going back to the first toy theatres almost 200 years ago, is facing closure after failing to secure a new lease from its landlord. An appeal has been launched by the management with a view to buying the freehold of the property at 1 Scala Street. It is believed that the landlord wants to sell, but so far has refused to either name a price for the freehold or extend the lease (which expires on 3rd March) in order to allow time for funds to be raised. Further information about the collection and the appeal can be found on the Pollock's Toy Museum web site via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.

Following its previous visits to the Middle Temple, Shakespeare's Globe will take this year's productions of Romeo And Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and Measure For Measure to the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace for a three week season from 6th July. The event celebrates the 400th anniversary of performances there by Shakespeare for King James I and his family.

Raw Materials is an exhibition at the National Theatre that illustrates the process involved in bringing Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials to the stage, which is running until 27th March. It examines the journey from first concept to opening night, through design sketches, set models (with a model of the Olivier theatre's unique drum revolve), puppets, costumes (including an armoured bear), and photographs from the workshops of the set construction and costume and armour building.

The spring season at the Bridewell Theatre comprises: Tim FitzHigham and Duncan Walsh Atkins in At The Drop Of A Hippopotamus, a celebration of the songs of Flanders and Swann, from 24th to 27th February; Claire Burt in the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Passion, directed by Carol Metcalf, from 9th March to 3rd April; the world premiere of Amazonia, a dark comedy about the disappearance of explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett in the Amazonian rainforest, written and directed by Misha Williams, from 15th April to 1st May; The Trumpet Major, from Thomas Hardy's novel about a girl choosing between three suitors, adapted and directed by Michael Fry, from 11th to 29th May; and Burleigh Grimes, a contemporary play set on the trading floors of New York, by Roger Kilby, with music by Jane Watkins, featuring Sally Bernstein, James Chalmers, Joshua Mann, Kristin Milward and Joshua Randall, directed by Steven Little, from 8th June to 3rd July.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is holding another Masterclass season for young people who have an interest in theatre, or are keen to pursue a career in the arts. Events are open to people aged 16 and over, and are free of charge - but there is a refundable deposit required confirming the booking. The spring series runs from 9th to 30th March, with sessions beginning at 2.30pm and lasting around two hours. It features the following masters of their arts: Patricia Hodge - actor, Sonia Friedman - producer, Michael Pennington - actor, and Phelim McDermott - director, plus Opening Doors, a panel based event exploring the realities of working in the theatre. Further information and online booking can be found on the Theatre Royal Haymarket web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds will stage the premiere of Alan Plater's Blonde Bombshells Of 1943, adapted from his television film about a wartime all girl swing band, directed by Roxana Silbert, from 28th April to 22nd May. The show will feature music by Fats Waller, the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Flanagan and Allen, George Formby and others of the period. This will be followed by a prospective pre West End production of the Off Broadway musical Bat Boy, with book by Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming, and music and lyrics by Lawrence O'Keefe, directed by Mark Wing-Davy, from 21st June to 17th July. Set in a small town in West Virginia, it is the tale of a half-boy, half-bat coming to terms with his disabilities. The show is a co-production by WYP, Michael Alden Productions, and Robert Mackintosh and Martin Yates for West End International.

The new season at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol, which specialises in simple stagings of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, comprises Macbeth, currently playing until 22nd April, and Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling, a tragi-comedy about a desperate heiress given in marriage to a man she loathes, joining in repertoire from 19th March. Both plays are directed by Andrew Hilton, and following a regional tour, will transfer to the Barbican Pit from 25th September to 23rd October.

The Rumour Machine says: that Trevor Nunn will direct an 'actual age' production of Hamlet with teenage leads opening at the Old Vic in April; that Charlotte Rampling will make her National Theatre debut joining Lia Williams in Marivaux's The False Servant, directed by Jonathan Kent; and that Mark Rubinstein will bring Tom And Viv, Michael Hastings's play about TS Eliot and his first wife Vivien, to the West End in the autumn, directed by Lindsay Posner. The Rumour Machine grinds on.