News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 17th April 2009

Once again Shakespeare's birthday will receive a three day celebration at Shakespeare's Globe. On Saturday 18th April, there will be the traditional Sonnet Walks, during which twelve sonneteers will entertain walkers along routes to Bankside. There is a choice of two routes through Tudor London, starting from Westminster Abbey or St Leonard's Church in Shoreditch. Walks leave every 15 minutes from 10am to 12.45pm. On Sunday 19th April, there will be an open day from 12noon to 5pm, with free games, activities, workshops, a world record sonnet attempt, 'dark lady' fortune telling, and Montagues v Capulets stage combat, plus the opportunity for members of the public to perform their favourite Shakespeare speech from the stage. On the day itself, Wednesday 23rd April, Romeo And Juliet, the first performance of the season, will be preceded at 6pm by a free entertainment event.

The Royal Shakespeare Company will celebrate Shakespeare's birthday with a festival from Thursday 23rd to Sunday 26th April in Stratford upon Avon. Events will include the annual procession from Shakespeare's Birthplace to his grave at the Holy Trinity Church at 10.45am; the first public display of the newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare, together with a video installation inspired by it; Sonnets On The Ferry, trips across the river from the theatre gardens accompanied by sonnets performed by RSC actors; Transforming Our Theatres, a discussion and progress report on the rebuilding of the theatre with executive director Vikki Heywood and project director Peter Wilson; and Sonnet Sleuth, a literary scavenger hunt with 14 clues from the sonnets hidden around the town centre.

The Donmar Warehouse has confirmed its productions for the remainder of this year. Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, which follows the woes of a faded Southern belle, and her road to madness aided by her violent brother in law, with Rachel Weisz, Elliot Cowan, Ruth Wilson, Barnaby Kay and Jack Ashton, directed by Rob Ashton, will open on 28th July; Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Life Is A Dream, an epic, poetic play that explores illusion, reality, fate and destiny, set against the backdrop of a mythical kingdom, in a new version by Helen Edmundson, with Dominic West, directed by Jonathan Munby, opening on 13th October; and the premiere of John Logan's Red, a bioplay about the abstract artist Mark Rothko's struggle to accept his success, with Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne, directed by Michael Grandage, opening on 8th December.

This year's Opera Holland Park season will run from 2nd June to 15th August, with the City of London Sinfonia as resident orchestra, and will comprise: Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, directed by Lindsey Posner, with choreography by Adam Cooper; Humperdinck's Hansel Und Gretel, directed by Stephen Barlow, with choreography by David Greenall; Puccini's La Boheme, directed by Elaine Kidd; Offenbach's Orpheus In The Underworld, directed by Tom Hawkes, with choreography by Jenny Weston; Verdi's Un Ballo In Maschera, directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans; and Janacek's Kstya Kabanova, directed by Olivia Fuchs. The Theatre is located in the middle of Holland Park and uses the ruins of Holland House as a backdrop to the performances. Both stage and audience are covered by a canopy. Further information and online booking can be found on the OHP web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

Foreplay, which relocates Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, about a series of sexual encounters, to contemporary South Africa, written and directed by Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom, with choreography by Israel Bereta, featuring Excellentia Mokoena, Koketso Mojela, Ntshepiseng Montshiwa, Mandla Gaduka, Sello Zikalala, Boitumelo Shisana, will open at Theatre Royal Stratford East on 26th May, produced in association with the South African State Theatre.

English National Ballet is touring a second Angelina Ballerina show, Angelina Ballerina's Big Audition, featuring the star struck mouseling from Katherine Holabird's children's stories as she prepares to audition for the prestigious Camembert Academy, encountering new forms of dance, from jazz to hip hop, with Emma Findlay and Edward Fallon, opening at the Derngate Theatre in Northampton on 21st May. The show, adapted by Paul Larson and Laura Beaumont, and choreographed by Anthony Dowson, to music by Tchaikovsy, orchestrated and arranged by Daryl Griffith, is aimed as an introduction to ballet for 3 year olds upwards, and runs for 75 minutes including an interval.

The Pieta, a contemporary oratorio by Shane Cullinan, which relocates the story of when Christ's body was placed in his mother Mary's arms to contemporary Manchester, with Frances Barber and Claire O'Brien, will be staged at St James's Piccadilly on 28th and 29th May. The producer is Cayos Music.

Frank Matcham & Co, recently published by Theatreshire Books, is a compendium about the life and work of the world's greatest theatre architect. Primarily it is a collection of essays by architectural luminaries: John Earl on how Matcham's office worked; David Wilmore on the input of his partners and contractors; Andrew Saint on the social climate of the time; Michael Sell on his work in the north; Gorel Garlick on his early life and work; and Iain Mackintosh on the saga of the Royal Opera House in the Hague, plus an introduction by Alan Bennett. These are supported by a list of Matcham & Co's known theatre work, architectural drawings, obituaries and other press articles. With over 100 illustrations, many in colour, it is a fascinating read for Matcham's admirers, and a splendid introduction for anyone else interested in theatre, who will soon become one.

The next production at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark will be Forbidden Broadway, a new version of the legendary revue lampooning New York theatre, created and written by Gerard Alessandrini, with Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Alasdair Harvey and Steven Kinman, directed by Alessandrini and Philip George, opening on 2nd July.

This year's Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, titled 100 Years of English Genius, which runs from 14th to 23rd May, celebrates one of the greatest periods in English music, the century between the birth of Purcell in 1659, and the death of Handel in 1759. Highlights include Handel's Athalia; The Early Opera Company with John Eccles's The Judgement Of Paris; The Harp Consort with dance tunes and ballads from the theatres, homes and taverns of Baroque London; and Zefiro Baroque Orchestra with Handel's Water Music. Concerts are mainly at St John's Smith Square, plus events at Westminster Abbey. Further information can be found on the LFBM web site, the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.