News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 18th January 2002

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats is to end its run at the New London Theatre on 11th May, its 21st birthday - a sort of welcome to the world of the grown ups: You're Fired! It has stacked up a barrowload of statistics, in addition to being the longest running West End or Broadway musical by 6 years. In London: played almost 9000 performances, seen by over 8m people, producing 136m in box office receipts. Worldwide: performed in 11 different languages (I thought dance was the universal language) in over 300 cities, seen by over 50m people, producing over $2bn. Lloyd Webber says that he wants use the New London's flexibility to make it the leading mainstream venue for innovative work. It was the first new West End theatre to be built after the Second World War, and was designed to be adaptable, able to be configured as proscenium arch or theatre in the round. Almost one third of the floor area is on a revolve so it can switch formats easily. However its position away from other theatres meant that prior to Cats, shows there had difficulty finding audiences, and it was used as a television studio.

Fevered Sleep are presenting Written With Light (Or How To See Things In A Chamber That Are Not), a multi-media performance art installation inspired by the invention of photography, in the Undercroft of the Roundhouse Chalk Farm until 3rd February. A photographer, who has lost her memory and tries to retrieve it by looking through her archive, discovers a terrible secret. Combining physical theatre, puppetry, stage and optical illusion, with chemical and photographic techniques from the early nineteenth century, the event makes full use of the eerie spaces beneath the former engine shed. It features Carl Patrick and Sally Walker Taylor, and was devised and directed by Lee Simpson. Further information from Fevered Sleep on 020 7960 4242.

Nominations for the Olivier Awards reveal that the Best New Musical and Best New Dance Production categories have been dropped this year. Musical theatre therefore has no category for new writing, and the Outstanding Musical Production nominations offer a choice between Kiss Me Kate, My Fair Lady and South Pacific, all over 45 years old - and all written by Americans. Two new categories have been instituted, Most Promising Playwright and Most Promising Performer, in addition to the previously mentioned Audience Award For Most Popular Show. Martine McCutcheon has been nominated for Best Actress In A Musical - the question has to be asked: how many of the judges managed to catch the show when she was on? The full nomination list, audience voting and tickets for the presentations event can be found on the Society Of London Theatre web site via the link opposite.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Marc Salem's Off Broadway show Mind Games will open an eight week season at the New Ambassadors Theatre on 30th April. The entertainment, in which he employs psychological techniques, visual information and behavioural psychology was recently seen at Hampstead Theatre.

The world premiere of American writer Howard Ginsberg's Murder In Paris is at the Haymarket Theatre Basingstoke until 2nd February. It is based on the real life events surrounding the death of detective novelist Georges Simenon's daughter, who was found in her apartment with a bullet through her heart. The psychological mystery thriller sees Simenon clash with rival Inspector Mercier as they try to discover whether it was suicide or murder. It features Michael Sibery, Ian Cullen Louise Jameson, Julian Forsyth, Hannah Yelland and Rachel Atkins, and is directed by Andy Jordan.

The BBC has joined with the Barbican Centre in funding the installation of a 1m permanent remote controlled audio and video system. It will provide a simple and cheap broadcast quality feed, that will allow many more events to be recorded or relayed live on radio or television, without any impact on the live experience. There are 30 camera positions throughout the Barbican Hall, Theatre, Pit and Cinema 1, and at least 12 television performances are planned each year either on BBC 2 or the new digital arts channel BBC 4. The system launches on 20th January with a concert of the works of John Adams broadcast simultaneously on Radio 3 and BBC Knowledge. Once the system has been proved a similar installation at the Royal Opera House and National would mean that henceforward a record of all productions could be kept, even if not all of them were broadcast.

On The Casting Couch: Jack Davenport, Googie Withers, David Yelland, Peter Gordon, Roger Hammond, Robert Hands, Richard Laing, John McCallum, Amanda Shillabeer and Clare Swinburne will join Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson in Peter Hall's production of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan opening at the Haymarket Theatre on 21st February.

Dundee Rep is staging the premiere of Pants, its third idiosyncratic Scottish comedy musical by Forbes Mason, from 17th April to 4th May. The show traces the career of Rikki Rintoul, a Caledonian McChameleon of Rock, on his journey through a host of musical genres, until the years of musical re-invention finally take their toll. This will be followed by the premiere of Nightflights by Marcella Evaristi, a multi-layered look at story telling and the stories we tell ourselves in a tale of desires and dreams, from 15th to 25th May.

The Young Vic Theatre's spring season comprises Thomas Babe's A Prayer For My Daughter, a tragicomedy set in a New York police precinct as two officers interrogate two murder suspects, directed by Joe Mantello, from 13th February to 16th March; Jude Law as Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus, in the tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for infinite knowledge, wealth and power, directed by David Lan, co-produced with Natural Nylon Theatre Company, from 18th March to 27th April; and the European premiere of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, about an English woman who discovers an outdated guidebook and journeys to Afghanistan, directed by Declan Donnellan and co-produced with Cheek By Jowl and New York Theatre Workshop, from 22nd May to 22nd June. Meanwhile its current production Monkey! A Tale From China, Colin Teevan's adaptation of a Chinese legend, directed by Mick Gordon, will embark on a regional tour.

And Finally . . . Cooking and makeover programmes have already swamped television, but now it's happening to performing arts venues. Feast is a series of cooking and culture events at the Royal Festival Hall over the next two months. These include Sophie Grigson and Mark Kurlansky talking about fish; John Humphrys and Tim Lang considering food and farming; and Ruth Rodgers, Felipe Fernandez-Roberts and Tracey MacLeod exploring food as rite and magic. I suppose this means that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen will be entrusted with the RFH's refurbishment programme, and it will be Festival of Britain kitsch and zebra skin everywhere.