News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 15th December 2000

Shockheaded Peter, which created a stir both in its previous London appearances the Lyric Hammersmith and on UK and world tours, will finally reach the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre from 14th February to 28th April. Based on Heinrich Hoffmann's gothic children's cautionary tale Struwwelpeter, but given a Rocky Horror style workover, Cultural Industry's combination of puppetry, music and narrative drive has swept all before it. The show features Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Ewan Hunter, Tamzin Griffin and Rebekah Wild, with music by the falsetto trio Martyn Jacques and The Tiger Lillies. The directors are Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch.

Treasury proposals for a new Financial Services And Markets Act could make raising investment for theatre productions easier. Currently producers are unable to make the first move in approaching potential investors, but can only respond to direct enquiries. The planned legislation would exempt commercial producers from these restrictions. The Society Of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association have welcomed the fact that theatrical investment will be specifically mentioned in legislation for the first time. However it is not all good news. The Treasury may remove the automatic right of solicitors and accountants to approve investment information, and require approval by an investment bank or corporate finance firm. This would greatly increase the cost and could result in considerably more complex paperwork. Information about how theatre investment works and how to become an Angel can be found in the Investment section of TheatreNet.

The League Of Gentlemen will bring the locals of Royston Vasey, the characters from their television series, to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for a limited season from 12th March. Given the elaborate costume and makeup jobs required to produce the series, it will be interesting to see how it works live - after all, their technique is more Spitting Image than Rory Bremner. The producer is Phil McIntyre.

Although the Royal Ballet has run its school for many years, there has never been anything comparable for the Royal Opera, but that is about to change. A Young Artists Programme is to be established to offer a two year course at Covent Garden for selected professional singers at the start of their career. Multimillionaire Alberto Vilar, who has already given £10m towards the restoration of the Floral Hall, is to fund the scheme with another gift of £7.5m. The programme will start next September with six singers, building to ten singers plus a singing coach, a conductor and a director from 2002. Candidates will benefit from all the facilities of Covent Garden, including workshops and coaching from visiting international singers, conductors, directors and composers.

John Doyle continues his association with the Watermill Theatre Newbury, adapting and directing a new version of Beauty And The Beast with music by Catherine Jayes. The story is updated to contemporary Britain, where Beauty lives appropriately enough in an old mill. The show, which as always at the Watermill weaves a strong magic spell with minimal resources, runs until 13th January.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's revised version of the 1991 Broadway musical The Secret Garden, which is currently playing at Stratford, will transfer to the Aldwych Theatre on 27th February. The show is adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel, with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, and is directed by Adrian Noble. It tells the story of an orphan brought back from India to live in her uncle's house in England, who is desperately unhappy until one day she and her sickly cousin discover the key to a secret garden. The current Stratford cast features Philip Quast, Linzi Hateley and Peter Polycarpou but they have yet to be confirmed for London. The producer is Nederlander Producing Company England.

The new year schedule at the New Ambassadors Theatre has been announced. Linda Marlowe will perform Berkoff'sWomen, the one-woman show comprising tragic and comic scenes from several of Steven Berkoff's plays, including Greek, East, Decadence and Medea. The show, which is directed by Josie Lawrence, and was previously seen at the Edinburgh Fringe, plays from 5th to 10th February. Conor McPherson's latest work Port Authority receives its world premiere from 22nd February to 15th March. It is made up of three stories exploring how different generations of men face up to the responsibility of love: a boy leaves home for the first time, a man starts a job for which he is not qualified, and an older man has been sent a mysterious package. Shared Experience returns with Helen Edmundson's adaptation of George Elliot's Mill On The Floss, directed by Nancy Meckler and Polly Teale, from 4th April to 5th May. It is the story of Maggie Tulliver - played by three actresses at different stages of her life - and her struggle against the conventions of Victorian society.

On The Casting Couch: Fiona Shaw will be joined by Jonathan Cake, Siobhan McCarthy, Jonathan Slinger, Leo Wringer, Robert Hines and Celia Ni Fhatharta in Euripides Medea in a translation by Kenneth McLeish and Frederic Raphael, directed by Deborah Warner, opening at the Queens Theatre on 19th January; Anna Chancellor, Zoe Wanamaker and Lyndsey Marshal will star in the UK premiere of David Mamet's Boston Marriage, set at the turn of the 19th century, and examining the ambiguous friendship between two women who live together, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, opening at the Donmar Warehouse on 8th March; and Ben Bates, John Carlisle, Georgina Hale, Nichola McAuliffe and Sophie Ward will head the 29 strong cast of Thelma Holt's West End premiere of Noel Coward's 1926 play Semi-Monde, an upmarket, and more louche, version of Cavalcade, set in the public rooms of a grand hotel, directed by Phillip Prowse, opening at the Lyric Theatre on 14th March.

Timberlake Wertenbaker's Credible Witness starring Olympia Dukakis, with Anthony Barclay and Vincent Ebrahim, will receive its premiere at the Royal Court Theatre from 13th February to 10th March. A young man flees to a distant land and vanishes, and his mother follows in pursuit certain that she will find him, but in the unfamiliar place her confidence deserts her. Sacha Wares directs.

The schedule for Sadler's Wells Theatre for the first half of 2001 includes: the return of Tap Dogs, Dein Perry's Australian all male tap dancing on a building site show; Northern Ballet Theatre's new adaptation of Jekyll And Hyde, directed and choreographed by Massimo Moricone, Houston Ballet's production of Cleopatra, choreographed by Ben Stevenson; the Belgrade Theatre Coventry production of Roald Dahl's The Twits, adapted by David Wood and directed by Kathl Leahy; the return of Paco Peña's Musa Gitana, the story of the life and work of the Spanish artist Julio Romero de Torres; Birmingham Royal Ballet's Arthur Parts 1 & 2, the world premiere of the conclusion of David Bintley's Arthurian legend ballet; Opera North's Paradise Moscow, a new production of Shostakovich's operetta Cheryomushki, the satire set in 1950's Moscow; and Chikamatsu-za, the leading Japanese Kabuki theatre company in Sonesaki Shinju (Love Suicides at Sonesaki), one of the greatest works in Kabuki.