News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 13th October 2000

Competition between the three West End theatre owning chains sharpened this week with the acquisition of David Ian Productions by SFX (owners of Apollo Theatres) to create a new production unit with Ian as managing director. This follows the appointment of Andre Ptaszynsky at Really Useful Theatres and Robert Cogo Fawcett at Ambassador Theatre Group. Each organisation now has a powerful figure whose job is to secure quality product and foster co-production deals. It signals a determination to improve West End theatre standards. In addition to British productions, Ian will be looking at transferring SFX Broadway shows such as the current Jekyll And Hyde, and the revival of 42nd Street scheduled to open next May. SFX already has the Barry Clayman Corporation concert promotion division.

Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange which recently ended a run at the National Theatre is to transfer to the Duchess Theatre next spring. Set in a London mental hospital, it explores medical ethics and racism through the case of a patient who claims to be the son of an African dictator. It starred Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln and Bill Nighy, and was directed by Roger Michell.

Michael Bogdanov's English Shakespeare Company has gone into liquidation after fourteen years, with debts of over 200,000. Poor box office for productions of Hamlet and Titus Andronicus at the Edinburgh Fringe pushed the company too far into debt to recover. ESC has had a chequered history in the past few years with an unsuccessful residency in Newcastle, and Bogdanov's absence directing abroad. The company will probably be most widely remembered for its controversal football culture production of Henry V.

The tumbling Buddhist Monks who caused a stir at the Royal Variety Performance last year with their kung-fu spectacular Shaolin: Wheel Of Life, return to London at the end of the British leg of their world tour. They will be kicking at the Hammersmith Apollo on 8th and 9th December.

The Society Of London Theatre is looking for 12 enthusiastic and knowledgeable theatregoers to join one of the judging panels for next year's Laurence Olivier Awards. Panellists will receive a pair of free tickets for all shows playing in the West End between 1st January and 31st December. Next year a new Affiliates panel concentrating on Off West End venues will join the regular panels assessing Theatre, Opera and Dance. The Theatre panel is expected to attend about 60 play or 20 musical performances, Opera and Affiliates about 20 each and Dance about 40. Applications can be made online on the SOLT web site, alternatively there are leaflets in all West End theatres. The deadline for applications is 17th November.

The winter season at the Palace Westcliff includes three in house productions directed by Roy Marsden. Fings Aint Wot They Used To Be, book by Frank Norman and music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, runs from 1st to 18th November. It celebrates Soho in the '50's, as post war austerity gave way to prosperity and the birth of rock and roll, drawing on Bart's experiences among small time villains. Christmas sees Glyn Robbins adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the classic tale of the search for pirate gold, from 6th December to 13th January. Macbeth with Simon Lenagan and Tanya Franks plays from 7th to 24th February prior to a national tour. There will also be the English language premiere of contemporary Norwegian writer Jon Fosse's Summer's Day, set in an old farmhouse at two different times, evoking the end of summer and the end of an affair from 30th November to 9th December in the Dixon Studio.

As part of the continuing initiative to make theatre accessible to people with disabilities, the Royal Shakespeare Company is to present an open-captioned performance of The Duchess Of Malfi for hearing impaired theatregoers at the Barbican on 15th November. The technique works like opera surtitles, but open-captioning allows for the text to be manually scrolled, so that it remains consistently synchronised with the action on stage. The performance is presented with Stagetext, a company committed to bringing live theatre to the hearing impaired. The RSC pioneered the system last year and intends to present an ongoing programme of performances. Theatres generally offer a disabled discount, but contact the individual venues for details. There is further disability information in the Box Office section of TheatreNet.

The battle to interest children in the arts is being lost according to a report published this week. The National Foundation for Educational Research in a three year study for the Royal Society of Arts reveals that the teaching of performing arts has been pushed to the outer reaches of the school timetable. It criticises the government policy of concentrating on children identified as gifted, and who might go on to become professionals, which precludes opportunities for participation by the remainder of the school population. This not only denies most children the advantages gained by the experience of involvement in the performing arts, but also results in a failure to stimulate their interest in attending performing arts events.

The second London Tango Festival will be held at the Porchester Hall from 9th to 12th November. There will be daytime masterclasses and workshops at all levels, from Absolute Beginners to Semi-professional, between 11.00am and 6.00pm. In the evenings, a live band will accompany demonstrations by some of the world's greatest tango dancers from 8.00pm to 10.00pm, followed by dancing for all until midnight. The festival is presented by Academia Nacional del Tango UK in association with Las Estrellas School of Tango. Full details are available from the London Tango Festival web site via the link from the TheatreNet Festivals section.

The Rumour Machine says: that the RSC is looking at a West End transfer in March for its production of The Secret Garden if the Christmas season at Stratford is well received; that Harold Pinter will make his New York acting debut as part of a retrospective of his plays staged by the Gate Theatre Dublin at the Lincoln Centre next year; and that Farrah Fawcett will replace Stefanie Powers in a London season of The Adjustment which toured recently but didn't find a West End home. The Rumour Machine grinds on.