News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th August 1998

Macbeth is notorious as a harbinger of theatrical ill fortune, hence it is usually referred to as "the Scottish play". As far as the National Theatre is concerned, the curse seems to have been transferred to Cleopatra, henceforward "the Egyptian play". Having already lost the services of Antony Sher on the first day of rehearsal of Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle And Dick, now Alan Bates has withdrawn from Anthony And Cleopatra, because of a torn ligament, which requires an operation. Alan Rickman (more the glamorous ruler of the civilised world, than the haggard general) will now join Helen Mirren, directed by Sean Mathias, opening on 20th October.

Meanwhile, the National is staging another of its outdoor special weekends: East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon in Theatre Square on 4th/5th September, from 4.00pm - 10.30pm on Friday and 11.00am - 11.00pm on Saturday. An array of international storytellers and musicians, including Edmund Lenehan, Roy Bailey and Labi Siffre, will present a "yurt", or Central Asian storytelling gathering, with tales from both eastern and western traditions. Each individual event lasts about one hour, with a range of U, PG and 18 ratings, and prices varying between 4 and 6.

Comedian Lee Evans season at the Apollo Theatre, from to 21st September to 21st November, will be followed by fellow stand up Jeff Green, from 24th November to 5th December. The producer for both events is Off The Kerb Productions.

London Open House 98 - the scheme to allow the public into over 450 interesting, but normally private buildings across the capital, takes place on 19th and 20th September. It includes a number of locations of theatrical interest, including the State Kilburn, the Central School of Speech and Drama, the Diorama, the Round House, Hackney Empire, Circus Space, Richmond Theatre, Wilton's Music Hall, the Granada Tooting, the Wigmore Hall and the Lyceum and Players Theatres. Entrance is free, and some venues include demonstrations, rehearsals or special performances. For full details call the Open House Hotline on 0891 600 061, or write to PO Box 6984, London N6 6PY.

English Nationl Opera's Autumn season at the London Coliseum, from 5th September to 12th December, will consist of three new productions and three revivals. The new productions are Verdi's Otello directed by David Freeman; Donizetti's Mary Stuart directed by Gale Edwards making her ENO debut; and Musorgsky's Boris Godunov directed by Francesco Zambello. The revivals are David Pountney's productions of Dvojak's Rusalka and Humperdinck's Hansel And Gretel; and Graham Vick's production of Puccini's Madam Butterfly. Both new and returning productions are supported by a programme of talks, workshops and other events.

The Vivian Ellis Prize, the competition to discover and promote new writers in musical theatre, is still seeking a sponsor for its Most Promising Bookwriter Award. The five finalists have now been chosen, and the showcase and awards ceremony takes place on 1st October at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. So if your company would like to join the illustrious group of sponsors, which range from Ticketmaster to Tiffany, then contact Chris Grady at the Prize office immediately. Full details are on their web site, via our Organisations section.

The Rumour Machine says: that there is to be a revival of Where's Charley?, the 1948 musical adaptation of Brandon Thomas' Charley's Aunt, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by George Abbot, some time during the winter; that a musical biography of Mario Lanza will star Mark Rattray - inspired casting since he can't act either; that sadly Bjorn and Benny's show recycling ABBA songs, currently titled Mama Mia is now scheduled for next April; and that Elton John is to join the vanity producing club with his version of The Hunting Of The Snark - didn't the Snark suffer enough at the hands of Mike Batt - where's Carla Lane when you really need her? The Rumour Machine grinds on.

Trevor Nunn's wonderful production of Oklahoma! at the National continues its sell out run, drawing in a public who have either never been to the South Bank, or haven't been there for years. It provides the best evening of musical theatre in London this year, and shows up Whistle Down The Wind, Dr Dolittle and Saturday Night Fever for the feeble offerings they are. There is much speculation about a West End transfer when it ends its run at the National on 3rd October, but that poses a number of tricky questions. Firstly, the cast is only contracted to that date, with no option to continue, so fresh contracts would need to be negotiated. Secondly, while a number of potential producers have expressed an interest, Cameron Mackintosh (whose Foundation helps to fund the National's musical projects) would expect first refusal. Thirdly, where could a show with such a large cast and orchestra go? All the bigger musical houses are occupied, so unless something unexpectedly comes to grief, there are no options - except possibly another three month winter season at the Lyceum, between the Royal Ballet and The Lion King. Unless the helicopter at Drury Lane gets its demob papers.