News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 13th August 1999

The World Concert premiere of the musical Inkle & Yarico at the Edinburgh Festival, will mark UNESCO's International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23rd August. It is a retelling of the late18th century story of an Englishman whose life was saved by a South American Princess with whom he fell in love, but later betrayed and sold into slavery. The project has been developed and is presented by the Holders Season Barbados. Book and lyrics are by Paul Leigh and music by James McConnell. It features Michael McCarthy and Natalie Tinn in the leading roles. The concert will be performed at 8.30pm on the Festival Revue stage in Princes Street Gardens, and will be relayed live to a large screen in the Covent Garden piazza, and on the internet via the Edinburgh Festival Revue site at There is a link to this site from the home page of TheatreNet.

John Hurt returns to the London stage after a five year absence in Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape in the Beckett Festival which is part of the BITE:99 season at the Barbican Centre. The Festival, which also features Niamh Cusack, is under the aegis of the Gate Theatre Dublin, and will present the entire Beckett canon of 19 plays, between 1st and 18th September. There will also be an accompanying events programme, with readings of Beckett's poetry and prose, and a display of visual arts inspired by his work. Radio 3 will broadcast some of the plays and other programmes about his work.

Christopher Cazenove and Sophie Ward star in Henry James The Turn Of The Screw at Coventry Belgrade from 7th to 23rd October. Bob Eaton directs a new adaptation of the Victorian ghost story by Jeffrey Hatcher. Two impressionable children under the care of a new and inexperienced governess are seemingly beset by spectres. It is a co-production with Paddy Wilson and Sebastian Break, and will be looking for a West End home.

London Open House 99, the scheme to allow the public into over 500 architecturally interesting but usually private buildings across the capital, takes place on 18th and 19th September. Locations of theatrical interest include the Almeida, Dominion, and Players theatres, Hackney Empire, Wilton's Music Hall, Circus Space, Granada Tooting, State Kilburn, and the Blackheath, Royal Festival and Wigmore Halls, plus BBC Bush House, Broadcasting House and Television Centre, and the ITN building. In 1998 over 350,000 visits were made during the two days. Entrance is free, and some venues include special events. For full details call the Open House Hotline on 09001 600 061, or check out their web site via the link form the TheatreNet Festivals section.

There will be two Proms in Park events in Hyde Park this year. On 11th September, The Last Night of the Proms will feature Kiri Te Kanawa, Evelyn Glennie, The Bootleg Beatles and other guest artists live, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, followed by a relay from inside the Royal Albert Hall on giant screens. In the afternoon of 12th September, (yes, after the Last Night) there will be a Children's Prom of popular classics with special guests and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, plus appearances by CBBC stars including Katy Hill, Mr Blobby, and the Chuckle Brothers.

Honk!, the musical based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, with book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe and music by George Styles, receives its London premiere at the Landor Theatre on 23rd September. It stars Graham Hubbard and Elizabeth Hill, and is directed by Deborah Sathe. The producer - Plunge! Productions - is still seeking financial support (not investment) for the Landor season, with the hope of transferring the production elsewhere. Philanthropists call 0171 328 7834 for further details.

The traditions of Trinidad's Carnival and the spirit of Caribbean storytelling have provided the inspiration to turn Handel's oratorio into Carnival Messiah. A combination of song, dance and spectacle, using contemporary music styles, it is conceived, adapted and directed by Geraldine Connor. The world premiere is at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 20th September to 16th October, with Jean 'Binta' Breeze leading a company of over 100 performers, including two gospel choirs and a steel band.

John Tusa, managing director of the Barbican Centre, is striking a blow for cultural standards on 19th August, when he takes part in an Edinburgh Festival debate entitled "What's wrong with cultural elitism?" He will argue with writers Meg Henderson, Tim Parks and Mark Ryan, that there is a pressing need to return to assessing art with "judgmental evaluation". Tusa says: "Not content with shying away from unfashionably absolute words such as "good" and "excellent" we have spawned our own weasel words that allow us to label everything while judging nothing. We should have had enough of the fear of being called elitist because we take up the cudgels of robust, disinterested criticism." He lays the blame for the lack of rigour in judging art at the door of the government, which he says is increasingly concerned with funding art institutions that are educational, provide outreach, improve access and advance ethnic diversity, rather than being accomplished at their primary tasks.

Gaelforce Dance, a new Irish dance show will receive its UK premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on 23rd September. It features a company of 36 dancers, musicians and singers, and the gimmick this time is: they use their arms. The show is presented by Flying Music.

The Rumour Machine says: that the bricks and mortar saga continues, with SFX, who last week bought Apollo Leisure, still in contention for Stoll Moss, the biggest London theatre chain. It is thought that SFX may bid for the whole group, but then sell off the smaller theatres, as might Cameron Mackintosh, who is believed to be interested in the big three (Drury Lane, the Palladium and Her Majesty's) and the Shaftesbury Avenue theatres. People are now beginning to question whether SFX can continue its explosive growth - from formation to world leader in three years - or whether the swift rise and fall of Livent (whose assets it has also just acquired) is not some sort of a warning. Meanwhile the Ambassador Theatre Group, which owns the Duke of York's and New Ambassadors in the West End, is considered the front runner for the Associated Capital Theatres group. The only encouraging feature in this is that all the (allegedly) interested parties are producers as well as landlords. The Rumour Machine grinds on.