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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 14th September 2007

The Royal Shakespeare Company has confirmed that its Stratford season next year in the Courtyard Theatre will feature a repertoire of Hamlet, Love's Labour's Lost, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, all directed by Gregory Doran, performed by an ensemble company that will include David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, with Hamlet subsequently transferring to London. The Stratford season will open with another ensemble company performing a repertoire of The Merchant Of Venice, directed by Tim Carroll, and The Taming Of The Shrew, directed by Conall Morrison. The same ensemble will go on to perform two new plays to be staged in London at a theatre yet to be confirmed: Adriano Shaplin's The Tragedy Of Thomas Hobbes, contributing to the debate on God and science, and Marina Carr's The Cordelia Dream, written as a response to King Lear, tackling the personal cost of creativity, directed by Selina Cartmell.

The Donmar Warehouse is to stage a year long season of four shows at Wyndham's Theatre from September next year, beginning with Chekhov's Ivanov, about a troubled landowner in a domestic and philosophical crisis in pre revolutionary Russia, in a new version by Tom Stoppard, with Kenneth Branagh, directed by Michael Grandage, opening on 17th September; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, with Derek Jacobi, also directed by Grandage, opening on 10th December; Madame De Sade, by Japanese playwright Yukio Mishima, translated by Donald Keene, about five women affected by the debauchery of the Marquis de Sade, including his wife and mother, again directed by Grandage, opening on 18th March 2009; and Hamlet, with Jude Law, directed by Kenneth Branagh, opening on 3rd June 2009.

Meanwhile at Donmar itself, from next May onwards (although dates have yet to be confirmed) there will be productions of Strindberg's Creditors, a comic tale of obsession, in a new version by David Grieg; Life Is A Dream, by 16th century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca, exploring the conflict between free will and fate; and T S Eliot's The Family Reunion, a 20th century verse play dealing with humanity's guilt and the acceptance of responsibility. In order to secure its future Donmar has purchased a 125 year lease on its building in Earlham Street, beginning in 9 years time when the current Ambassador Theatre Group lease runs out.

Scottish Opera's 2007/2008 season, which opens at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow on 3rd October, will include new productions of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, with Adrian Dwyer, Nicholas Folwell, Giles Tomkins, Thomas Oliemans, Paul Carey Jones, Karen Cargill and Karin Thyselius, directed by Thomas Allen; Judith Wier's A Night At The Chinese Opera, a tale within a tale, in turns comic, melodramatic, farcical and tragic, combining folk melodies with parodies of Chinese and Italian opera, with Reno Troilus, Nicholas Warden, Toby Stafford-Allen, Jane Harrington, Damian Thantrey, Fiona Kimm, Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks, Rebecca de Pont Davies, Sarah Redgwick and Stephen Chaundy, directed by Lee Blakeley; Verdi's Falstaff, with Peter Sidhom, Federico Lepre, William Dazeley, Peter Van Hulle, Alasdair Elliott, Giles Tomkins, Maria Costanza Nocentini, Lucy Crowe, Leah Marian Jones and Sally Burgess, directed by Dominic Hill; and Rossini's Cinderella, with Nicholas Ransley, Julian Hubbard, Dean Robinson, Elizabeth Donovan, Katherine Allen, Caryl Hughes and Marc Labonnette, directed by Harry Fehr; and Mozart's Seraglio, directed by Tobias Hoheisel, co-directed by Imogen Kogge, a co-production with Nationale Reisopera of Holland; plus Five:15, five new fifteen minute chamber operas created through collaborations between some of Scotland's leading writers and musicians.

The Royal Ballet - 75 Years by Zoe Anderson, recently published by Faber, races through the personalities, productions and backstage stories that made up the first three quarters of a century of the Royal Ballet. With its typically British origins, the story begins like a novel, as it follows the adventures of bossy young Irish dancer Ninette de Valois going to see Lillian Baylis, the eccentric mistress of the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells, to ask if she would provide a home for a new company, recruiting Constant Lambert as musical director, Frederick Ashton as choreographer and Margot Fonteyn as principal dancer, running the entire outfit on a shoestring, and coping with wartime privations. When the Vic-Wells Ballet (as it was) goes 'legit', moves to Covent Garden, and becomes the Royal Ballet, the story loses some of its 'home grown' attraction, but remains absorbing, thanks to Anderson's candied assessments of the next generations, including characters such as Kenneth Macmillan, Rudolf Nureyev and Sylvie Guillem, and a wealth of authentic anecdotes.

Further productions have been announced at the Trafalgar Studios 2. A double bill by Jack Thorne, Fanny And Faggot, a funny but stark investigation into the person behind the child murderer Mary Bell, with Elicia Daly, directed by Stephen Keyworth, and Stacy, with Ralf Little as a geeky guy who is confused by his relationship with his 'good friend', opening on 4th October, produced by Fish Productions in association with Lifeboat Theatre and Weaver Hughes Ensemble; Philip Ridley's Vincent River, the meeting of a mother whose son has been murdered and the boy who found the body, with Lynda Bellingham and Mark Field, directed by Rebecca McCutcheon, opening on 2nd November, produced by Old Vic Productions; Samuel Adamson's darkly comic monologue Some Kind Of Bliss, in which a pop journalist's life is changed forever after two savage incidents by the Thames, performed by Lucy Briars, directed by Toby Frow, from 20th November, produced by Adam Knight; and Potted Potter - The Unauthorised Harry Experience - A Parody By Dan And Jeff, all the J K Rowling books in sixty minutes, written and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, directed by Dominic Knutton and Richard Hurst, from 17th December.

Northern Ballet Theatre will premiere David Nixon's new, but traditional, interpretation of The Nutcracker, set in the Regency period, (when E T A Hoffman wrote the original story), at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on 11th October, opening a regional tour. The repertoire for the tour will also include Nixon's A Midsummer Night's Dream, seen as the romantic entanglements of a touring dance company travelling by sleeper train from London to Edinburgh (with strange things happening when they enter a tunnel) in a design style of late 1940s Dior New Look, and Christopher Gable and Massimo Moricone's classic production of Romeo And Juliet.

J B Miller's The Dorchester, with Tim Faulkner, Toni Kanal, Matthew Phillips, Alec Walters and Matthew Wynn, directed by Lynda Baron, will open at the Jermyn Street Theatre on 15th November. It is set in London in 1940 after a successful German invasion, as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are being persuaded to be puppet monarchs, and features Noel Coward as a secret agent. The producers are Simon James Collier and Omar F Okai, Lynda Baron and Silver Ghost.