News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 17th March 2000

The Soho Theatre Company is developing a practical course for writers as part of the mission in its new £10.6m building. An anonymous donor has provided funds to launch and run the non academic scheme for two years. Each year six writers will attend workshops during three eight week terms between March and October. Among other projects, each will be commissioned to write a play. The first group has been chosen from the company's existing research and development sources. Further funds are being sought to enable the scheme to become permanent.

The first International Improvisation Festival will be held at Dartington Hall at Totnes in Devon from 17th to 23rd April. It is dedicated to the discussion, presentation and study of improvisation as a performance form in an ever-widening range of disciplines. There will be a week of workshops and performances led by international professional artists, including Mary Prestidge, Ray Schwarz, Martin Sonderkamp, Iwona Olazowska and Katie Duck. Full details from the IIF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Gaelforce Dance, the Irish dance show which had its UK premiere at the Royal Albert Hall last September, is now touring. It features a company of 36 dancers, musicians and singers, and the gimmick this time is: they use their arms. There is also a narrative element not dissimilar to Blood Brothers. The show is presented by Flying Music.

A new three year bursary scheme has been set up by the Theatre Investment Fund and the Society Of London Theatre to encourage new producers. Participants will receive legal and professional advice, mentoring and financial investment. The idea builds on the existing ACORN programme of production workshops. £300,000 has been earmarked for the scheme, which is being run in association with the Arts Council and the Mackintosh Foundation.

Stefanie Powers is to return to the West End in the summer with Michael Brandon and Tony Anholt in Michael Folie's comedy The Adjustment. She will play an anti-religious, political lobbyist who falls for a married, Jewish chiropractor. The play enjoyed Off Broadway success two years ago. It will be directed by Dennis Erdman and produced by Paul Farrah.

The 22nd Association of British Theatre Technicians Trade Show takes place at the Royal Horticultural Halls on 5th and 6th April. In addition to stands featuring the products of leading lighting, sound and staging manufacturers, there will be a free seminar programme, and a British Theatre Architecture Exhibition, with the UK exhibit from last year's Prague Quadrennial. Further information and registration from the ABTT web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

As part of the Stephen Sondheim 70th birthday celebrations, the Bridewell Theatre is planning a Sondheim season running from May to July. The two main productions will be Sweeney Todd produced by David Babani, and Passion produced by the Bridewell. There will be an accompanying programme of masterclasses, concerts and workshops, together with a series of showcases of new musicals under the banner of The Heirs Of Sondheim.

The Mark Morris Dance Group returns to the Coliseum in June and July in collaboration with English National Opera. They will perform L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato by Handel, and a double bill comprising the London premiere of Purcell's Dido And Aeneas, in which Morris will dance the role of the Carthaginian Queen, and new production of Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts.

Those who prefer their performers to have four legs will be pleased to know that the Lipizzaner Stallions, are returning to Britain. The aristocrats of the equestrian world, performing in the tradition of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, will play London and regional arena dates from 24th March to 14th May. The producer is Gary Lashinsky.

Upcoming shows at the Tricycle Theatre showcase work from around the world. Marie Jones' award winning Irish comedy Stones In His Pockets, is a tale of what happens when a remote part of Ireland gets a taste of Hollywood, and is looking for a West End transfer. Nicolas Kent will direct Jean-Claude Grumberg's Dreyfus, in a new version by Jack Rosenthal. The British premiere of Jane Harrison's Stolen, is part of the Heads Up Australia Arts 100 Festival. South African performer Pieter-Dirk Uys will present his new show Foreign Aids.

Thwarted in his attempt to win the tender to run the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's number one venue (the Assembly Rooms) Hugh Loughman, director of Scottish International has found a spectacular alternative. He will take over Our Dynamic Earth Centre, a new science based visitor attraction near the Royal Mile, and host theatre, music and club events throughout the Festival.

Hampstead Theatre, continuing its support of new writing, has announced a season of premieres. Denis Lawson will direct Ron Hutchinson's A Solitary Vice in April. This will be followed by the previously mentioned co-production with Derby Playhouse, Speaking In Tongues by Andrew Bovell, the co-screenwriter of the Australian film Strictly Ballroom, directed by Mark Clements. Actor David Haig's second play The Good Samaritan will be seen in July, and the season concludes with new work by Shelagh Stephenson and Michèle Winstanley.

And Finally . . The government has abolished the restrictions on the number of days per year that child performers can work. Until now, under 13's could work for only 40 days, and over 13's only 80. This move follows an extensive review of child employment laws by the Department of Health. In future local authorities will assess children's' work applications on an individual basis. Assurances of continued protection do nothing to scotch the feeling that Gordon Brown's zest for full employment would have children back working down the mines - if there were any left.