News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th June 2000

The next arena opera at the Royal Albert Hall from the Raymond Gubbay stable will be Verdi's Aida, running from 23rd February to 4th March. It reunites the creative team of director David Freeman, designer David Roger, musical director Peter Robinson, lighting designer Andrew Bridge and translator Amanda Holden. No word on casting as yet, nor whether real elephants will be involved.

Goldsmith's College is holding a combined open day and arts festival on 24th June from 10.00am to 5.00pm. The open day will include informal talks with tutors, sessions for prospective research students, exhibitions, performances and campus tours, providing information about undergraduate, postgraduate, adult education and short course study opportunities, across music, drama and dance. The arts festival is a celebration of the creative and performing arts, involving the college and other local groups and organisations, plus a programme of children's activities. Further details from the Goldsmith's web site via the link from the Training section of TheatreNet.

Napoleon, the new bio-musical about the French emperor, which receives it's world premiere on 17th October at the Shaftesbury Theatre, will star Paul Baker and Broadway actress Anastasia Barzee. Written by Andrew Sabiston (book and lyrics) and Timothy Williams (book and music), the show concentrates on Napoleon's relationship with Josephine, rather than how he conquered all of Europe. The cast will also include David Burt and German actor Uwe Kroger. Francesca Zambello, who recently directed War And Peace at the Opera Bastille, Paris (presumably limbering up) directs. The producer is Malmaison Productions Ltd.

The Barclays Theatre Awards are looking for theatregoers to form its 100 strong public judging panel for next year's nominations. Presented by the Theatrical Management Association, these are the only UK wide awards for theatre, with productions in over 160 theatres under consideration. Panellists will receive a pair of complementary tickets for shows in their local area, between 1st September and 31st August 2001. They award marks for the shows attended, which are then collated to form a shortlist for consideration by theatre professionals, who make the final choice. Last year's winners included Simon Gray's The Late Middle Classes (Best New Play) which was famously denied a West End showing at the Gielgud by the disastrous "musical" Boyband. This year's awards will be presented in October. Application forms to join the panel are available from Theatrical Management Association, 32 Rose Street, London WC2E 9ET (snail mail only) or call 020 7557 6777. The closing date is 7th July.

Beasts And Superbeasts is an outdoor promenade entertainment inspired by the stories of Saki, which employs Edwardian theatrical traditions and acrobats, puppets and stilt walkers to realise H H Munro's infamous characters. It will be performed in the Horniman Gardens, Forest Hill, from 8th to 16th July at 2.00pm and 4.30pm, and in Gunnersbury Gardens, Acton, from 18th to 23rd July at 2pm and 7pm. The directors are Kate Brooke and Esther Richardson, and the producers are Turtle Key Arts and Antic Hay.

The world's most famous magical society, the Magic Circle, is opening its inner sanctum, The House Of 10,000 Secrets, to the public. Visitors can Meet The Magic Circle on Tuesday evenings throughout the year, and enjoy The Magic Circle Experience on Sundays during the summer. On view will be exhibits on recent members like Tommy Cooper and David Nixon, together with magic apparatus belonging to great illusionists of the past. These include the handcuffs worn by Harry Houdini in the Water Torture Cell, and the gun used to fire bullets at Chung Ling Soo, which he caught on a plate in front of his chest (except at his final performance the night the magic didn't work). A guided tour will take visitors through the clubroom, museum, library and Devant room before ending in the theatre with a special magic show. Further information from the Magic Circle web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

New Zealander Kerry Fox will play the lead in Charlotte Jones In Flame opening on 4th September at the New Ambassadors Theatre. Set in 1909 and 1999 the play reveals how different generations of women are victims of over-bearing male ego. The remainder of the cast, Jason Hughes, Marcia Warren, Rosie Cavaliero, Emma Dewhurst and Ivan Kaye, were in the premiere production at the Bush Theatre last year. Hard lines on the one who didn't make it. The director is Anna Mackmin, and ACT Productions and Matthew Byam Shaw are the producers.

Marking the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese in South America, Brazil 500 is a festival of Brazilian culture - a unique mixture of European, African and indigenous South American - which runs until November. It takes in music, visual arts, dance, cinema, and food, at locations all over London, including the Barbican, Riverside Studios and Peacock Theatre. Among the artists featured, many of whom are making their first appearance in the UK, are: Joao Gilberto (who launched the Bossa Nova), Hermeto Pascoal (one of the most creative figures in contemporary jazz), Caetano Veloso (who created Tropicalia), the Deborah Colka Dance Company, the Bahia Ballet and Meninos Do Morumbi (the 100 strong percussion group from the streets of Sao Paulo).

Arts funding is a problem the world over. In New York the Martha Graham Dance Company, founded in 1929 by possibly the most influential figure in contemporary dance of the 20th century, has suspended operations due to financial difficulties.

The 10th Cannizaro Park Open Air Theatre Festival runs from 15th July to 13th August. The programme includes the usual mix of Opera - Opera School Wales in Bizet's Carmen and Opera Box in Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro; Ballet - Ballet Russ in Giselle; Shakespeare - the Cliveden Festival production of Romeo And Juliet; and Music - the Brandenburg Sinfonia playing Summer Classics with Dancing Fountains; plus other music and comedy events. Full details from the Cannizaro Park web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

And Finally . . . Speaking at the annual meeting of the Covent Garden Community Association, Sam Mendes criticised the celebrity casting stunts which are invading British theatre. He admits to being inundated with offers from film stars following Nicole Kidman's appearance in The Blue Room, claiming to have turned down Brad Pitt amongst others. Mendes said he didn't want to see theatre reduced to a celebrity event, and would cast purely on suitability and talent. Perhaps the opportunist casting of Jerry Hall as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate will be the bridge too far which causes sanity to return.