News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th August 2008

The Society Of London Theatre's 11th Kids Week In The West End, is now on, running until 29th August, designed to introduce young people to the theatregoing experience, with thousands of free tickets and special events. Children between 5 and 16 can go free (when accompanied by a paying adult) to 29 London shows, with up to two additional children at half price. Over 25 accompanying events are taking place during the two weeks, including backstage tours, workshops, classes, storytelling and 'meet the cast' opportunities, plus special activities the under 5s. There are also freebies and discounts at restaurants, and on travel and accommodation packages. Latest information can be found on the Kids Week ticketing web site via the link opposite.

Welsh National Opera's autumn season will open at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 19th September. It features a new production of Verdi's Otello, with Dennis O'Neill or Terence Robertson, Amanda Roocroft and David Kempster, directed by Paul Curran; and revivals of Rossini's The Barber Of Seville, with Colin Lee, Laura Parfitt, Eric Roberts and John Moore, directed by Giles Havergal; and Janacek's Jenufa, with Nuccia Focile, Peter Hoare and Susan Bickley, directed by Katie Mitchell.

It's More Than Rock And Roll is a sale of rock memorabilia that will be held by The Fame Bureau at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, London E2, on 4th September. Major lots will include Brian Epstein's personal copy of the original management agreement between himself and The Beatles; the Trident Studios Bechstein grand piano, used in The Beatles' recordings of the White Album and 'Hey Jude', and later by many other performers; John Lennon's original lyrics of 'Sexy Sadie', hand carved on a piece of wood in India in 1968; the Tom Mix standee from Peter Blake's Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover artwork; Jimi Hendrix's 1965 Fender Stratocaster the first guitar he set fire to on stage; the last surviving drum kit of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham; Jim Morison's last notebook of poetry and musings; and the song sheet for Band Aid's 'We Are The World', signed by the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. The sale will be in the evening preceded by viewing during the day.

The autumn season at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester includes Dario Fo's agit prop classic about police corruption The Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, in a translation by Simon Nye, with Pepe Balderrama, Roger Delves Broughton, Gina Isaac, Charlie Morgan, Gary Shelford and Michael Thomson, directed by Gari Jones, from 18th September; and Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, adapted and directed by Giles Havergal, with Pete Ashmore, Christine Absalom, Ignatius Anthony, Miranda Bell, Tony Casement, Patti Clare, Kate Copeland, Roger Delves-Broughton, Kerry Gooderson, Gina Isaac, Tomos James, James Rowland, David Tarkenter, Tim Treslove and Tristram Wymark, from 30th October.

The British Shakespeare Company, the producer of outdoor Shakespeare in Elizabethan style (with unusual casting choices) is this year presenting A Midsummer Night's Dream, with a company that includes David Davis, Daniela Lavender, Richard Morrison, Jacqueline Wilder, Oliver Farnworth, Catherine Lake, Luciano Dodero, and Robert J Williamson, directed by Robert J Williamson, at the Collector Earl's Garden Arundel Castle, on 28th and 29th August.

The autumn season at the Unicorn Theatre for Children at London Bridge will include the British premiere of Guus Ponsioen's Pero, translated by Rina Vergano, which combines quirky puppetry, actors and live operatic music to tell a story of love and friendship about a bashful baker, the girl next door, and a suave newcomer, from 24th September, a Speeltheater Holland production; Red Fortress, by Carl Miller, after an idea by Tony Graham, set in 1491 in the Moorish kingdom of Granada, about three children living in the shadow of the Alhambra who flee from their homes to embark on daring adventures, from 18th October; and Sleeping Beauty, in a new version by Rosy Fordham, a race through time from Victorian Southwark to modern day London, in order to meet the right prince, and find the kiss that breaks the spell, from 2nd December.

Backstage Stories by Barbara Baker, recently published by Continuum, offers a view behind the scenes into the jobs and personalities of people who work in the theatre. Twenty one highly respected backstage professionals are interviewed, from producer and artistic director to dresser and footwear co-ordinator (me neither), working in all kinds of theatres in Britain and the United States. Their stories inform and entertain as they describe what they do and how they got to do it, and in addition there are anecdotes and reminisces about working with people such as Alan Bennett, Judi Dench, Placido Domingo, Ian McKellen and Andrew Lloyd Webber, to name but a few. Whether you enjoy watching theatrical performances and would like to know more about how they are achieved, or actually want to pursue working in the theatre, this book is worth a look.

The 2008/2009 season at the Oldham Coliseum will include Brassed Off, adapted by Paul Allan from Mark Herman's screenplay of the film, set in a Yorkshire colliery village in 1994, where the pit faces closure, but community spirits are revived by competing in the national brass band championships (a more tasteful version of The Full Monty), with Eric Potts, Stuart Wade, Emma Gregory, Clara Darcy, Phil Rowson, Phil Corbitt, Bernard Wrigley, Susan Twist and Isabel Ford, supported by a live brass band, directed by Kevin Shaw, from 4th September; Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt, adapted by Giles Havergal, in which the extraordinary journey around the world of a retired bank clerk and his eccentric aunt is told by three actors playing myriad characters (including the aunt), directed by Joyce Branagh, from 9th October; Aladdin, directed by Kevin Shaw, from 22nd November; and Tim Firth's Absolutely Frank, a comedy relating what happens when a middle aged signwriter who longs to write an all action spy novel, finds that dramatic events start happening in real life, from 29th January.

The autumn season at the Peacock Theatre will include return visits by Le Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the drag ballerinas in extracts from the classics; American dance company MoMix with Moses Pendleton's Lunar Sea, a 'black and white' performance piece like a giant Rorschach test; Nuevo Ballet Espanol's new production Sangre Flamenca, a display of traditional flamenco with a 21st century edge; Jasmin Vardimon Company with Yesterday a 'greatest hits' compilation interwoven with new material; and Raymond Briggs's The Snowman, with a score by Howard Blake from the animated film, choreographed by Robert North, and directed by Bill Alexander.