News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 15th February 2002

It's Official! As previously forecast here Judi Dench and Maggie Smith will star in The Breath Of Life, a new play by David Hare, about two women who have been involved with the same man, in the West End in September. Robert Fox (Ms Smith's favoured producer) will officiate, but a theatre and a director are yet to be signed.

Nottingham University's School of Continuing Education has a Learning & Discovery Study Tours programme with a wide range of arts related events both in the UK and abroad. Scheduled from March to October they span weekends to full weeks, with subjects including: Welsh National Opera: Rigoletto and The Cunning Little Vixen; Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller; Shakespeare - The Practical Dramatist; Impressionism in Music - A Survey of Debussy and Ravel; Glyndebourne; Vienna Festival - Music, Art and Architecture; and William Walton Centenary at Ischia. Further information can be found on the University of Nottingham web site via the link from the Training section of TheatreNet.

Chicken Shed Theatre has two Shakespeare productions in its current season, both interpreted for a young audience in its individual way. Romeo And Juliet, which starts with the renovation of a Church in contemporary Verona, plays from 27th February to 16th March. A Midsummer Night's Dream, a revival of its acclaimed 1996 production, runs from 20th March to 20th April. Both play a generous number of matinees. Any company which can elicit this response from Alan Bennett: "I don't get out much but I'll come here again" has got to be worth a look.

The Royal Opera House is set to extend its free big screen relays of opera and ballet beyond the Piazza in Covent Garden. The first step will be a screen in Victoria Park in east London for a performance of the Royal Ballet's Romeo And Juliet. If successful it will be tried in other parks around the country, and there may even be free relays in cinemas. There will also be more live broadcasts on BBC4, the new digital arts channel. The first night of this season's Rigoletto was seen by 2200 in the House itself, 3000 in the Piazza, and 900,000 on BBC2. This autumn will see the premiere of an opera based on Sophie's Choice, directed by Trevor Nunn and conducted by Simon Rattle, which is expected to get the full treatment.

Ready For My Voiceover Mr DeMille: Virtual stage performances are making their biggest impact across the globe since Laurence Olivier's notorious filmed West End appearance in the debacle that was Dave Clark's Time at the Dominion Theatre in 1986. Judi Dench will be on Broadway as the voice of the Giant in the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Into The Woods which opens at the Broadhurst Theatre on 25th April. Her contribution was recorded a couple of weeks ago on the set of the new Bond movie which she is currently filming. Patrick Stewart will be the voice of the Wizard in John Kane's adaptation of The Wizard Of Oz at the West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds from 5th March. His contribution was recorded while he was in J.B. Priestley's Johnson Over Jordan at the WYP last autumn.

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.

Composer and performer Billy Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp are joining forces on a narrative musical Movin' Out, with a Broadway opening set for 24th October at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The show will contain 26 songs by Joel, most are existing numbers, but there will also be some new material. The story concerns six friends, who grow up in the 1960s and go on to fight in Vietnam, where one is killed and another is blamed for his death.

From the same stable as stage versions of the '50s films Kind Hearts And Coronets and The Ladykillers, comes another Ealing comedy, The Lavender Hill Mob. Starring Victor Spinetti and Clive Francis (who also directs) and adapted by Andrew Taylor and Francis, the show opens a regional tour at Grand Theatre Swansea on 13th March, produced by Charles Vance. The story concerns a bullion robbery, the proceeds of which are cast into souvenir Eiffel Towers and shipped to Paris, where they are inadvertently sold to a party of British schoolgirls.

On The Casting Couch: Sharon D Clarke, Alexander Hanson, Kerry Ellis, Tony Vincent, Andrew Derbyshire and Hannah Jane Fox will join Nigel Planer in We Will Rock You opening at the Dominion Theatre on 14th May; and Suzy Aitchison, Jasper Britton, Rose Keegan, Nigel Lindsay, Samantha Spiro and Jason Watkins will accompany Richard Briers and June Whitfield in Bedroom Farce at the Aldwych Theatre opening on 8th April.

The Rumour Machine says: that the conversion of clapped out rock group back catalogues into West End "musicals" continues unabated, with plans for a Madness show Our House which may arrive at the Cambridge in the autumn; that there is another twist in the long running saga of Sam Mendes production of the Arthur Laurents-Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim musical Gypsy, starring Bernadette Peters, which will now open in New York rather than London in spring next year; and that the recent Broadway production of Strindberg's The Dance Of Death, which starred Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren directed by Sean Mathias, will reach the London in the autumn, with Mathias following this with a West End production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, in a new translation Christopher Hampton, featuring two British and one American actresses early next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.