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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 15th July 2005

The Royal Shakespeare Company has confirmed details for The Complete Works, a year long festival in Stratford, running from April 2006 - the first time that Shakespeare's complete canon has been presented at one event. It will involve more than 30 professional companies from around the globe, presenting between them all 37 plays, 154 sonnets and 2 long poems. Among the highlights of 15 RSC productions will be Patrick Stewart in The Tempest and Antony And Cleopatra with Harriet Walter, both directed by Gregory Doran; Judi Dench in a new musical adaptation of The Merry Wives Of Windsor, with music by Paul Englishby, lyrics by Ranjit Bolt, revised book and direction by Gregory Doran; Janet Suzman in Coriolanus, and Ian McKellen as King Lear, directed by Trevor Nunn. Among the visiting productions will be: the South African Baxter Theatre Centre's Hamlet directed by Janet Suzman; Yukio Ninagawa's Japanese Titus Andronicus; Munich Kammerspiele's Othello; Sulayman Al-Bassam's contemporary Iraqi Richard III; Cheek by Jowl's Russian Twelfth Night; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's Henry IV, and F Murray Abraham in New York Theatre for a New Audience's The Merchant Of Venice. Further information can be found on The Complete Works web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

After numerous rumours over recent months, Really Useful Theatres, London's largest theatre operating company, which is half-owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, has sold its playhouses, the Lyric, Apollo, Garrick and Duchess theatres. They have been purchased for around 11.5m by Max Weitzenhoffer, the Broadway producer, and Nica Burns, the current production director of RUT. Andrew Lloyd Webber has committed RUT to investing 10m over the next five years restoring and refurbishing its remaining musical theatres, including the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the London Palladium. Burns and Weitzenhoffer will assume ownership of the theatres on 1st October under the name of Nimax Theatres, which will also manage the Vaudeville, although it will remain owned solely by Weitzenhoffer.

Harrogate Theatre is staging Nell Dunn's comedy Steaming, directed by Hannah Chissick, in Harrogate's recently restored Victorian Turkish Baths, until 30th July. It is the story of six very different women who find companionship from time together in their local Turkish baths, and when their paradise is threatened with closure, they decide not to let it go without a fight. This is the first time the show has been performed in promenade style in the authentic environment for which it was originally written. The baths, built in extravagent Moorish style, are the most historically complete of the seven remaining in the country. The cast comprises Gaynor Barrett, Victoria Carling, Lorraine Cheshire, Kate Rutter, Josie Walker and Judy Wilson.

Scottish Ballet's autumn tour, which launches at the Edinburgh Playhouse during the Festival, comprises a classic George Balanchine triple bill Apollo in which the god of music is instructed by the Muses, and Rubies, from his full length work Jewels, set to scores by Stravinsky, together with the British premiere of Episodes, set to a score by Webern; and a triple bill by its artistic director Ashley Page, The Pump Room, his latest ballet, a highly charged work for two couples set to Nine Inch Nails and Aphex Twin, Walking In The Heat, a sensuous duet, and 32 Cryptograms, a showcases of its dancers precision, speed and strength. Page will be choreographing a new production of Cinderella set in 18th century France, to the Prokofiev score, which will premiere at the Theatre Royal Glasgow on 13th December before touring.

Brits Abroad: A revised version of the musical Doctor Dolittle, with book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, will receive its American premiere when it opens a national tour at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh on 2nd August. Taking its inspiration from the original Hugh Lofting books and his slightly art nouveau illustrations, it will be rather darker and more adult in tone than the London version, and after the style of The Lion King, the animal puppet operators will be in plain view of the audience. It stars Tom Hewitt in the title role, and Nancy Anderson, Tony Yazbeck, Ed Dixon and Eric Michael Gillett, directed by Glenn Casale, with choreography by Rob Ashford, and puppet design by Michael Curry.

Jean Boht, Sandra Dickinson, Shirley Anne Field, Scarlett Johnson, Richard Grieve and Craig Giovanelli will star in the premiere of Henry James's Daisy Miller, adapted by Dawn Keeler, directed by Christopher Morahan, opening a regional tour at the Malvern Theatre on 30th August. It is a classic Victorian tale of passion, romance and intrigue brought about by the clash of American frankness and European aristocratic etiquette.

Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod's Cheek By Jowl theatre company and the Michael Clark Dance Company have become artistic associates at the Barbican Centre, by signing a three year agreement to present their new work in the Barbican Theatre. In a project funded by a 900,000 grant from the Arts Council England, Cheek By Jowl will stage a new work each year, and transfer a production from its sister company in Russia. The first shows next May will be Declan Donnellan's new version of the 5,000 year old Sumerian epic Gilgamesh, and the all male Russian staging of Twelfth Night. In 2007 there will be a new production of Cymbeline and the Russian production of Chekhov's Three Sisters. Michael Clark will stage three pieces for his company to compositions by Stravinsky. The first is the already announced reworking of his show O in November.

The Three Choirs Festival this year rests at Worcester, from 6th to 14th August. Among the highlights will be: a centenary tribute to Michael Tippett with A Child Of Our Time and Little Music For Strings; a sixtieth anniversary commemoration of the Second World War with Britten's War Requiem and Prokofiev's Seventh Piano Sonata; and a quinticentennial celebration of Thomas Tallis with Spem In Alium and other choral works; recognition of the local association of Elgar with The Light Of Life, Give Unto The Lord and Great Is The Lord; a live broadcast Choral Evensong featuring all three cathedral choirs; opera for the first time with Purcell's The Fairy Queen and Gershwin's Porgy And Bess; and a new commission from Howard Blake. Further information can be found on the TCF web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.