News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th February 2003

On The Casting Couch: Matthew Perry and Hank Azaria (who voices various characters on The Simpsons) are joining Minnie Driver in Sexual Perversity In Chicago, at the Comedy Theatre from 14th May; Natasha Richardson is to star in The Lady From The Sea, re-opening the Almeida Theatre on 15th May; and Michael Brandon is to play the title role in Jerry Springer - The Opera, at the National Theatre from 29th April.

English National Opera has made a controversial choice for its new artistic director in Sean Doran, who has been a great success running festivals, but has no experience of running a producing company. In his current post over the last four years, Doran transformed the Perth Festival in Western Australia into a world class event. He will take over ENO at a difficult time, with the company having recently been bailed out financially by the Arts Council with an emergency grant, a strike threatened by members of the chorus following proposed redundancies, similar trouble in the offing with the orchestra, and a year long closure immanent for the completion of the 40m restoration of the Coliseum by its centenary year 2004.

The 48th National Student Drama Festival takes place in Scarborough from 9th to 16th April, and there is still time to enter a production for consideration. Last year's Festival comprised 18 shows, chosen from a record 134 entries. Entrants can embrace all styles and themes of student production, from devised work to modern classics, from musical theatre to new writing, and from physical theatre to the great classic drama of the past. In addition to performances, the Festival also has an extensive programme of workshops, masterclasses and other events. Last year's participants included Mike Bradwell, Peter Hall, Stephen Jeffreys, Mark Ravenhill, Willy Russell, Timothy West and Scarborough's Cultural Godfather Alan Ayckbourn. During the Festival, the town assumes the mantle of a mini Edinburgh Fringe, as a variety of venues become performance spaces. Further information can be found on the NSDF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Spanish theatre company La Fura dels Baus will bring XXX, an exploration of sex and sexual fantasies, to the Riverside Studios from 24th April. While the company doesn't miss the opportunity to gain maximum publicity from the controversial, confrontational, and sexually explicit nature of the show, it actually explores dark themes. La Fura dels Baus grew out of the Catalan tradition of firework processions and street theatre and is known for creating unusual and intensive theatrical experiences. Their previous productions have included an adaptation of Don Quixote with the title character trapped inside a giant eyeball floating over Hong Kong in the year 3016.

After a number of different incarnations, John Fisher's autobiographical play about comedian and magician Tommy Cooper, opening at the Garrick Theatre on 8th April starring Jerome Flynn, is reverting to the original title Jus' Like That!.

Despite the economic problems and a drop in tourism, Broadway grossed a record breaking $707.1m in 2002, according to figures announced by the League of American Theatres and producers. This is a rise of over 6.5% on the previous year, and is attributable to an increase in both attendances and seat prices, with over 11.41m admissions to performances on the Great White Way - the second highest in history. In terms of Broadway shows, 46 productions opened, of which 13 were musicals, resulting in 1507 playing weeks, up from 1464 in 2001.

In addition to Neil Bartlett's new adaptation of Alexandre Dumas Camile, starring Daniela Nardini, directed by David McVicar, from 11th March to 12 April, the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith's spring season will include: the Shared Experience production of After Mrs Rochester, the story of Jean Rhys, the author of Wide Sargasso Sea, written and directed by Polly Teale, from 23rd April to 10th May; and Improbable Theatre with The Hanging Man, sweet-bitter-sweet tale of a half finished building and a man in search of death, written, designed and directed by Phelim McDermott, Lee Simpson and Julian Crouch, from 4th to 24th June.

Following on from the success of The Society Of London Theatre's free Kids Theatre Club for 8 to 12 year olds on Saturday mornings, the Theatre Museum has added Stage Truck on Saturday afternoons from 1pm to 5pm for 4 to 16 year olds. Also free, this is a hands on activity programme designed to encourage adults and children to explore a range of exhibits together, and learn more about the performing arts. It includes the opportunity to make theatrical shoes or masks, create costumed characters or make a puppet. During school holidays Stage Truck also takes place on Thursday afternoons, and there are special free Half Term events from 15th February to 2nd March. A new exhibition Rudolf Nureyev is a commemorative display to mark the tenth anniversary of the dancer's death, which includes three original costumes and one of his trademark black leather caps, together with photographs, designs and video footage. Further information can be found on the Theatre Museum Web site via the link from the information section of TheatreNet.

Northern Broadsides, which specialises in 'Ee by gum' Shakespeare productions, has an unusual pairing for its spring tour: Henry V and Thomas Heywood's rarely performed A Woman Killed With Kindness, a domestic tragedy set in rural Yorkshire by one of Shakespeare's contemporaries. The productions open at the NB home base of the Viaduct Theatre Halifax on 26th February.

The Channel 4 Theatre Director Scheme offers an 18 month programme for anyone over the age of 20 who wishes to make a career as a theatre director, with attachments available at three theatres, from July onwards. Previous theatres participating in the scheme include the Royal Court, the Young Vic and Salisbury Playhouse, while Trevor Nunn and Ken Loach are among those directors who have benefited from it. For further details and an application form send an A5 SAE to C4TDS, PO Box 444, Teddington TW11 8FS. The closing date for the receipt of applications is 14th March.