News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th June 2002

The annual Christmas battle of The Nutcracker's will open a third front this year. It is usually English National Ballet at the Coliseum going head to head (or toe to toe) with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. This year they will be joined by a revised version of Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures production at Sadler's Wells (which itself has been revised since it housed the original in 1992). Under the banner of Bourne's company New Adventures, Nutcracker! will play from 20th November to 25th January, before embarking on a regional tour. Bourne's take on the story starts with Oliver Twist and ends with Busby Berkeley.

Once again this year the National Theatre is presenting Watch This Space, its free outdoor festival in Theatre Square from 21st June to 24th August, with a programme that includes pyrotechnics, brass bands, belly dancing, street theatre, acrobatics, club nights, capoeira, limbo dancing, gypsy swing, wild beasts, puppet goats, aerialists, drummers, rumbas, blues, canoes and magic. Among the events running in tandem with the Transformation programme will be a celebration of mask theatre and Commedia dell'Arte, a circus season to complement The Birds, and a dance showcase to mark the opening of Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words. Events are at 6.15pm every day, plus at 1.15pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and at 1.15pm, 5pm and 10.30pm on Saturdays. Further information can be found on the National Theatre web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

Nick Lane and John Godber have adapted Herman Melville's epic novel Moby Dick for the stage at Hull Truck Theatre until 29th June. All the drama and spectacle of this adventure on the high seas, as Captain Ahab pursues the great white whale, is realised in typically robust Hull Truck style under Godber's direction. A joint family ticket is available with The Deep, the fishy visitor attraction which bills itself as The World's Only Submarium.

A reminder of the days of good old fashioned entertainment appeared this week with the re-opening of a Roman amphitheatre in the city of London, after a period of darkness lasting 1,700 years. The 7,000 capacity venue, one of the most important British archaeological finds of the last century, was rediscovered underneath the London Guildhall's medieval foundations in 1988. Originally constructed in timber around 70AD, it was replaced by the existing stone structure early in the 2nd century. An oval about 60 yards by 100 yards, it was the setting for a variety of battles, featuring gladiators, wild animals and condemned criminals, as well as chariot races and re-enactments of sea battles. The excavation and installation of a visual recreation of the arena has cost 1.3m. In the ultimate backstage tour, visitors can follow the route from the cells where victims awaited their fate into the arena. Entrance to the amphitheatre is included with admission to the Guildhall Art Gallery.

The Independent Theatre Council runs an extensive training programme covering all aspects of theatre management, including Starting A Performing Arts Company; Funding And Finance; Touring And Collaboration; Management, Marketing; and Legal Issues. All courses, seminars and surgeries, which take place throughout the UK, are given by first class trainers who have high quality hands on experience. A variety of bursaries and concessions are available. Further information is available from the ITC web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

Despite the runaway success of certain shows such as The Producers and Urinetown, thanks to the events of 11th September, attendances for the 2001/2002 Broadway season, which has just ended, were down for the first time in ten years. Figures released by the League of American Theatres and Producers showed that Broadway grossed $643.4m, selling nearly 11m tickets, down 3.4% and 7.9% respectively. Despite the fall, it was still the second highest grossing season ever, partly due to the ever-rising prices, with the average going up to $58.63 from $55.75 the previous year. However, attendances were the lowest for five years. One encouraging sign is that the number of new shows opening was up to 35 from the previous year's total of 28.

The ever enterprising Watermill Theatre Newbury is currently producing Love In A Maze, a neglected gem from the 200 odd plays written or adapted by Dion Bouccicault, which runs until 27th July. A romantic comedy set at a wedding, it is a typically complex series of emotional entanglements, of the kind for which Bouccicault is famous, which was reputedly last staged in 1851. Tim Sheader directs the show, with the action relocated to the 1920s.

This year's Buxton Festival has extended by two days and runs from 9th to 21st July. It centres on performances at the Opera House of Offenbach's La Perichole, plus a range of other productions which cover the entire operatic spectrum from Cavalli's Erismena to a new opera The Young Man With The Carnation by Edward Rushton and Tom Smith, based on Isac Dineston's short story, directed by John Fulljames, presented in association with Almeida Opera. There is an accompanying programme of recitals, chamber music concerts, a masterclass, and other events from breakfast literary talks by PD James, Roy Jenkins and David Starkey, to late night film and cabaret. Full details can be found on the Buxton Festival web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Broadway Bound: Hairspray, a musical adaptation of the 1988 John Waters film, with book by Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman opens at the Neil Simon Theatre on 15th August. It's a 'where were you in '62' story of teenage crises and crushes centring on a TV pop show in Baltimore. Starring Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein, it is directed by Jack O'Brien.

The Rumour Machine says: that Richard Briers will return to heavyweight roles as Prospero in The Tempest at Theatre Royal Plymouth in September, prior to a regional tour; that novelist Louis de Bernieres is engaged on his first work for the stage, a play which tells the real story of Joan Of Arc, to whom he may be distantly related; and that the much touted production of Macbeth with Sean Bean may now surface at the Albery Theatre in November (but don't hold your breath). The Rumour Machine grinds on.