News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th October 1998

Hopes of a West End transfer for Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen in Sam Mendes sell-out Donmar Warehouse production of David Hare's The Blue Room have been dashed, by the news that they will transfer to Broadway for a 14 week season from 27th November - start checking out the cheap air fares. Also off to New York are: Zoe Wanamaker, to repeat her performance in the Chichester/Donmar production of Electra, with Clare Bloom from 15th November; Diana Rigg and Jonathan Kent's Almeida production of Phedre, which transfers to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in January; and Judi Dench, to recreate her performance in David Hare's Amy's View next summer. Finally, Kevin Spacey will revive the Almeida production of Eugene O'Neil's The Iceman Cometh on Broadway in March.

Sadlers Wells Theatre has reached agreement with the Royal Opera House regarding the cancellation of the Royal Opera season next year, having extracted 1.35m compensation. Meanwhile the second half its reopening season consists of: Pina Bausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal in Viktor 27th to 30th January; Birmingham Royal Ballet in Edward II and a Triple Bill 2nd to 13th February; Pacific North West Ballet in A Midsummer Night's Dream and a Mixed Programme 22nd to 27th February; Arc Dance Company in The Return Of Don Juan 1st to 3rd March; Green Candle Dance Company in On The Road To Baghdad 9th to 14th March; Northern Ballet Theatre in Dracula 17th to 27th March; Welsh National Opera in Peter Grimes and Hansel And Gretel 30th March to 3rd April; and Royal Ballet in Giselle 5th to 17th July.

The Royal Opera House now seems to be in free fall, with the resignations of new and old hands alike. Judy Graham, recently appointed director of external relations, went in circumstances neither she nor the House will discuss. Music director Bernard Haitink has resigned, in protest both at the cancellation of next year's programme, and the manner if its execution. Now it is rumoured that Royal Ballet administrative director Anthony Russell may attempt a "management buy out" funded by Lord Sainsbury. Chairman Colin Southgate, who threatened to resign in order to force through the Opera closure, is also said to be close to throwing in the towel. The saga of truly operatic proportions plays on.

Paul Gilger's compilation show of Jerry Herman songs The Best Of Times, which played a sell-out season at the Bridewell Theatre in August, is to be remounted at the Vaudeville Theatre from 23rd November. The show includes over sixty numbers from Herman's shows of the 60's, 70's and 80's, and featured Garth Bardsley, Karen Evans, James Golding, Lindsay Hamilton, Barry Lloyd and Melanie E Marshall, directed by Bill Starr. The producers are Jennefer M Sanchez and Armand Gerrard.

As part of Barclays Theatre Week, the Mousetrap Foundation, which provides opportunities for young people to attend West End theatre, is offering school parties free tickets for a student matinee of Amadeus at the Old Vic Theatre on 4th November. Also included will be a teachers resource pack, workshops on both the play and Mozart's music, a talk on the history of the Old Vic and a backstage tour. Full details from the Mousetrap Foundation on 0171 836 4388.

Rocket Theatre, in the persons of Sacha Brooks and John Reid, are looking at a stage version of the seminal 60's film The Graduate for the West End in the autumn of next year, although they have yet to find an adaptor. The story is that of a college graduate facing the pressures of other people's plans for his future, and torn between his desire for both his girlfriend, and her mother - Mrs Robinson.

The Dracula of the West End, Bill Kenwrights's presentation of Peter Hall's production of An Ideal Husband, is set to rise again. Having already played at the Albery, the Old Vic, the Gielgud twice and the Haymarket three times, it is likely to go to the Lyric when Closer closes at the end of October.

The Theatre Investment Fund, the charitable organisation which provides "top up" investment for theatrical productions, has broadened its remit. Responding to the Society Of London Theatre report which highlighted the need for investment in new writing, the TIF has set up a new Acorn scheme. For the first time it will invest in workshops and try-outs of new work, in non mainstream London venues and in the regions. The deadline for the first round of applications is 23rd November. Full details are available from TIF, Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1V 8AY.

Having dispensed with the services of performing arts practitioners in its new streamlined form, the Arts Council is now setting about redistributing its resources. Money will be diverted from the "traditional arts" of theatre, dance and classical music, to the "more accessible" visual arts - especially those involving new media and technology. There will also be a fundamental change, in that the principal of the Lottery providing additional funding for special projects will be abandoned. In future, Lottery money and government subsidies will be lumped together as a single source. This will mean that major construction projects currently looking for funding, including the rebuilding of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford and the already much delayed South Bank Centre, will have to be shelved. The Department Of Culture is pressing ahead with the idea of an arts regulator (OffArt) to ensure that the running of organisations which receive funding is up to scratch. Of course this was one of the things the Arts Council used to do - before it sacked half its workforce. It has also been confirmed that (without consultation) when the Millennium Fund is wound up, its proportion of Lottery money will be filched by the government to pay for social spending, which should come from taxation. Curious how all the safeguards put in place by the previous administration when the Lottery was established, to ringfence funds as extra spending, have been systematically removed. But what can you expect from a government headed by someone who thinks that the defining symbol of the twentieth century is the electric guitar. By the next general election, when the United Kingdom, the voting system, the Pound, the House of Lords and serious culture no longer exist, will people still wonder how the fascist regimes gained such a hold on Europe so quickly in the 1930's? Perhaps not.