News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 16th November 2007

The National Theatre has announced further productions for the new year. In the Olivier: George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, the story of a Salvation Army member who becomes disillusioned when the organisation accepts money from her father, an arms manufacturer, whose workers live in model conditions, with Simon Russell Beale, directed by Nicholas Hytner, opening on 4th March. In the Lyttelton: Peter Handke's The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, in a new translation by Meredith Oakes, a 'play without words', painting a portrait of a community through the comings and goings in the town square, with Susannah Fielding, Lisa Dillon, Pip Carter, Callum Dixon, Noma Dumezweni, Amy Hall, Daniel Hawksford, Mairead McKinley, Daniel Poyser, Sara Stewart, Giles Terera, Jason Thorpe, Simon Wilson and Sarah Woodward, directed by James Macdonald, opening on 13th February. In the Cottesloe: Lucinda Coxon's Happy Now?, in which a chance encounter provokes a woman's midlife crisis, with Olivia Williams, Jonathan Cullen, Emily Joyce, Anne Reid, Dominic Rowan, Stanley Townsend, directed by Thea Sharrock, opening on 24th January; and a triple bill for teenagers about the transition to adulthood, comprising Baby Girl by Roy Williams, about an unwanted pregnancy, DNA by Dennis Kelly, about a group misdemeanour, and The Miracle by Lin Coghlan, about a life changing event, directed by Paul Miller, opening on 28th February.

New York TheatreNet: While the lights of Broadway still burn bright, all but 8 of the shows have been suspended since Saturday 10th November because of a strike by stagehands, with pickets parading in front of the theatres. The dispute between the League of American Theaters and Producers, and members of Local One, the Broadway chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, over a new contract, which should have been in place last July, centres on 'featherbedding'. The current contract guarantees the union that a fixed number of workers will be employed when a show is being installed in a theatre - regardless of the complexity of the show - and the producers want the flexibility to hire according to the actual amount of work to be done. The last strike on Broadway by the American Federation of Musicians was resolved after 4 days, but although negotiations 'at a secret location' have now been announced, no swift resolution seems in sight in what is already the longest strike in Broadway history. It is estimated that with the knock on effect on the overall New York entertainment economy (including restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and taxis), it is costing $17m a day in lost revenue. Off Broadway shows and 8 theatres with independent contracts are not affected.

The spring season at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester will include Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, about two teachers, condemned when a student alleges they are having a lesbian relationship, directed by Sarah Frankhom, from 5th March; Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, the story of an overbearing mother and her son, who is torn between an obligation to his family and his desire to break away, in 1930s St Louis, with Brenda Blethyn, directed by director Braham Murray, from 9th April; Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, the bloody Jacobean tale of lust and ambition in an Italian court, directed by Jonathan Moore, from 28th May; and Noel Coward's Hay Fever, the story of a weekend at the country retreat of a bohemian actress, her writer husband, and their two adult children, all of whom behave extravagantly badly in front of their mystified house guests, directed by Greg Hersov, from 25th June.

Forthcoming productions at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston will include Upstairs In The Sky, an interactive storytelling show for children, playing daytime performances from 30th November; and The Living Unknown Soldier, devised by Simple8, based on the true story of a surviving amnesiac soldier from the First World War, directed by Sebastian Armesto, from 5th February, presented by Strawberry Vale Productions.

The new season at Sadlers Wells will include La La La Human Steps performing Edouard Lock's Amjed; Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal presenting Cafe Muller and The Rite Of Spring; Opera North with Benjamin Brttten's Peter Grimes and Jonathan Dove and Alasdair Middleton's The Adventures Of Pinocchio; Nederlands Dance Theater with Jiri Kylian's Tar And Feathers and Wings Of Wax, and Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon's Signing Off; Randon Dance presenting the premiere of Wayne McGregor's Entity; Northern Ballet Theatre performing David Nixon's new ballet Hamlet; the Ballet Boyz (aka Michael Nunn and William Trevitt) and The Greatest Hits from their repertoire; Rambert Dance Company with Siobhan Davies's Carnival Of The Animals, the premiere of a work by Doug Varone and Andre Gingras's Anatomica #3; a new collaboration between choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Buddhist Shaolin Monks, sculptor Antony Gormley and composer Szymon Brzoska; the Suzhou Kunqu Opera Company with The Peony Pavilion; and a 6 week summer season of the musical West Side Story, directed by Joey McKneely.

Michael Billington's State Of The Nation, recently published by Faber & Faber, looks at post Second World War Britain from a theatrical perspective. It examines the constant interplay between theatre and society, from the resurgent optimism of the Attlee years, through the Angry Young Men of the 1950s and satire boom of the 1960s, to the growth of political theatre under Tony Blair in the post-Iraq period. Britain's longest serving theatre critic also offers a passionate defence of the dramatist as the medium's key creative figure. It provides detailed evaluations of writers from Priestley and Rattigan to Bennett and Hare, questions established myths such as the notion that Look Back in Anger launched an overnight revolution in 1956, and charts the links between Thatcherism and the musical. Controversial, witty and informed, it offers a fresh and challenging look at the vast upheavals that have taken place in Britain and its theatre in the course of the last 60 years.

The Talawa Theatre Company's next production will be Trish Cooke's Anansi Trades Places, a story about one of the most important gods of West African and Caribbean legend relocated to Britain, with Geoff Aymer, Susan Lawson Reynolds, Malinda Parris, Shyko Amos and Dermot Daly, directed by Paul J Medford, opening at the Shaw Theatre in Euston on 13th December.

The Rumour Machine says: that Michelle Pfeiffer is currently in negotiations that could see her become the next Hollywood name on the West End stage; that Roger Waters is working with playwright Lee Hall on a stage musical adaptation of Pink Floyd's album The Wall, which will also contain other back catalogue numbers and new material; and that the that the surprise Broadway musical hit Xanadu, based on the film about a Greek muse, sent to Earth to inspire mortals in California in the 1980s, who falls in love with an artist while helping him realise his dream of opening a roller disco, will transfer to the Duchess Theatre next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.