News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 17th August 2007

The Society Of London Theatre's tenth Kids Week In The West End is now on, running until 31st August, designed to introduce young people to the theatregoing experience, with thousands of free tickets and special events. Children between 5 and 16 can go free (when accompanied by a paying adult) to over 30 West End shows, with up to two additional children at half price. Over 40 accompanying events will be taking place, including backstage tours, workshops, classes, storytelling and 'meet the cast' opportunities, plus special activities the under 5s. There are also freebies and discounts at restaurants, and on travel and accommodation packages. Latest information can be found on the Kids Week ticketing web site via the link opposite.

The Society Of London Theatre is concerned that its members have been 'Olympic-ed', out of funding to help with the refurbishment of West End theatres. The Theatres Trust study into the state of the fabric of the 40 or so commercial West End theatre buildings found that the age of the properties, and changing audience expectation, meant that there would be a need for the investment of 250m in refurbishment over the next 15 years. Given the restricted income that theatres can produce, this is inevitably far more than the owners will be able to afford, and it was hoped that Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund or the London Development Agency would be able to provide half the funds. Since West End theatre generates nearly 60m per year directly in VAT on ticket sales, plus a further 200m in tax from related sectors such as restaurants and hotels (including income tax from the people who work in them) a significant public contribution would not seem unreasonable. However, it is now expected that this will not happen until after the 2012 Olympics, because of the strain the games are putting on public funding sources. There is still time to sign the petition on the 10 Downing Street web site to protest against the government's impending 35% funding cut for the Arts Council, in order to finance the Olympics. It has already amassed nearly 25,000 signatures, and is number 6 in the top 10 petitions. You can sign the petition now at 10 Downing Street - it will take less than a minute of your time to do so.

Having failed to find a suitable 'non traditional performance space' elsewhere in London, The Barbican will now host the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Gregory Burke's Black Watch itself next June. The site specific staging of the piece of verbatim theatre, based on interviews with former soldiers of the Blackwatch regiment who served in Iraq, directed by John Tiffany, with movement by Steven Hogget, was the most talked about show at last year's Edinburgh Fringe

The previously mentioned production of Oscar Wilde's 'trivial comedy for serious people' The Importance Of Being Earnest, with Penelope Keith, directed by Peter Gill, which opens a tour at the Theatre Royal Bath on 10th September, will transfer to the Vaudeville Theatre in February.

The Carl Rosa Opera Company will tour a repertoire of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen Of The Guard, directed by Michael McCaffrey, Iolanthe, directed by Peter Mulloy, and a new production of Patience, also directed by Mulloy, (joined at some dates by The Pirates Of Penzance, again directed by Mulloy), with Charlotte Page, Bruce Graham, Giles Davies, Henry Newman, Thora Kerr, Nuala Willis, Jill Pert and Lesley Cox, which will open at the Theatre Royal Bath, on 3rd September.

The autumn season at the Soho Theatre will include the National Theatre of Scotland's current Edinburgh Fringe production of Venus As A Boy, adapted and performed by Tam Dean Burn, from the novel by Luke Sutherland, the story of a young boy who travels to London and experiences the seamier side of Soho, from 4th September; the previously mentioned Moon Walking In China Town, by Justin Young, a site specific walkabout piece weaving together stories from across the generations in the alleyways and landmarks of Chinatown, directed by Suzanne Gorman, from 19th to 29th September, coinciding with the Chinese Autumn Moon Festival; the Talawa Theatre Company's premiere of first time playwright Michael Bhim's Pure Gold, examining the choices available to a young father trying to keep his head above water in modern London, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, from 27th September; the premiere of Roy Williams's Joe Guy, a story of identity, celebrity and tensions between British Africans and Caribbeans, directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr, from 23rd October; Magic War, a one woman show combining magic and visual spectacle to explore the nature of disagreements, ethics, violence and war, written and performed by Marisa Carnesky, from 30th October; the previously mentioned new work written and directed by Anthony Neilson, performed by actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company, from 29th November; and the Australian children's show Men Of Steel, in which three chefs animate two cookie cutters, a host of kitchen utensils and food in a puppet extravaganza, from 6th December.

The British premiere of the hit Off Broadway musical I Love You Because, a contemporary New York gender swapped retelling of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice, book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, music by Joshua Salzman, with Daniel Boys, Debbie Kurup, Richard Frame, Cameron Jack, Jodie Jacobs and Lucy Emma Williamson, directed by Robert McWhir, with choreography by Robbie O'Reilly, will open at the Landor Theatre in Clapham on 26th September.

The previously mentioned production of William Nicholson's Shadowlands, about the relationship of C S Lewis and Joy Gresham, with Charles Dance, Janie Dee, John Standing, Richard Durden and Graham Padden, directed by Jeremy Sams, which opens tour at the Arts Theatre Cambridge on 5th September, will play a season at Wyndham's Theatre, from 8th October to 15th December. The producers are Brian Eastman and Andrew Welch with Richmond Theatre Productions.

On Your Honour, by Roger Leach and Colin Wakefield, who also directs, with Alister Cameron, Philip Childs, Edward Fulton, Greg Gillespie, Leda Hodgson, Luciana Lawlor, Stan Pretty and Janet Rawson, will receive its British premiere at Jermyn Street Theatre, from 11th September. Confusions, intrusions and collusions abound among a group of lawyers at a weekend conference. The producers are Double Honours Productions in association with Theatre Maketa.

New York TheatreNet: Idol: The Musical, a satirical musical comedy that focused on the delusional small town fan base of the television show American Idol, has become the stuff of Off Broadway legend. Firstly, as the entire cast was replaced during the 5 weeks of previews, and then as the opening night was also the closing night. The producer (who originally conceived the show) issued a statement the following morning saying that he "has chosen to close the show due to a lack of advance ticket sales, a lack of positive feedback from audience members and critics, and a lack of sustainable financial resources".