Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
The 50th National Student Drama Festival takes place in Scarborough from 18th to 25th March, open to everyone: colleges, youth theatres, community organisations and universities. Last year's Festival comprised 14 shows, chosen from 120 entries. Entrants can embrace all styles and themes, from devised work to modern classics, from musical theatre to new writing, and from physical theatre to the great classic drama of the past. In addition to performances, the Festival also has an extensive programme of over 200 workshops, masterclasses, debates, street theatre and other events. Last year's participants included Timothy West, John Wright, Glen Walford, Mike Bradwell, Robert Hewison and Stephen Jeffreys, as well as companies such as Frantic Assembly, Graeae Theatre Company and Chicago's Goat Island, together with Scarborough's Cultural Godfather, Alan Ayckbourn. During the Festival, the town assumes the mantle of a mini Edinburgh Fringe, as a variety of venues become performance spaces. Further information can be found on the NSDF web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.
Russ Abbot, Susan Penhaligon, Sara Crowe, Henry McGee and Royce Mills star in Trevor Baxter's new adaptation of Oscar Wilde's comedy Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, directed by Christopher Luscombe, which opens a regional tour at the Theatre Royal Windsor on 22nd February. The young Lord Arthur, a pillar of society on the verge of marriage is deliriously happy - until a clairvoyant pronounces that before he can marry he must commit murder.
Brits On Broadway: Victorian actress Fanny Kemble, the youngest member of the Kemble theatrical family has finally made it to (Off Off) Broadway, in the world premiere of Laura Marks's Unbound, conceived and directed by Davis McCallum. It is adapted from Kemble's journals, which not only tell of her time as the toast of the West End - her debut as Juliet saved Covent Garden from bankruptcy and catapulted her to international celebrity - but also of her shock at discovering the conditions on her husband's slave plantation when she emigrated to America. The Prospect Theater Company production is playing appropriately enough at the West End Theatre in the Church of St Paul and St Andrew on West 86th Street in New York.
Rose Bruford College is launching what it claims is the first drama school based arts administration degree course, starting in September. The two year course, which will predominately involve projects and placements with London producing and receiving theatres and other arts organisations, will include producing, box office, marketing and organising festivals and events. The course aims to give arts equal weight with business, which other business based faculties fail to do.
Rambert Dance Company's spring tour, which has just started, includes the premiere of Mark Baldwin's first choreographic work for the company since he was appointed as Artistic Director, Constant Speed, inspired by molecules ricocheting in space, performed to the music of Franz Lehar, and two revivals of works by Antony Tudor: Dark Elegies, a timeless exploration of grief and mourning, performed to a Mahler song cycle, and Judgement Of Paris, a black comedy in which the Greek myth of three goddesses competing for the golden apple is turned on its head, performed to music by Kurt Weill.
Shared Experience, the theatre company that specialises in bringing literary works to the stage, is holding a series of workshops in which actors, directors, writers, and education practitioners can work with its creative team. These comprise: Directing from 7th to 11th March, for directors to learn and explore the techniques and exercises used in rehearsals; INSET on 21st March, for secondary drama teachers, and Further/Higher Education staff to explore their methods; Working From Literature on 11 April, looking at approaches to using literature as a source for adaptation and a springboard into creating an original work; and Acting on 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th April, introducing actors to its techniques. Further information can be found on the SE web site, via the link from Theatre Companies in the Links section of TheatreNet.
Broadway Bound: Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the original stars of The Producers, are reuniting for a Broadway production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, directed by Joe Mantello, opening in October. While Lane will play the sloppy sportswriter Oscar, and Broderick his flat mate the fussy photographer Felix, it has been reported that they may also switch roles at some performances.
On The Casting Couch: Jennifer Ehle will join Kevin Spacey in The Philadelphia Story opening at the Old Vic on the 7th May; and Michael Sheen and David Ryall will head the cast of The UN Inspector, opening at the National Theatre on 16th June.
Northern Broadsides, which specialises in 'Ee by gum' Shakespeare productions, has started its spring tour, with an ensemble of 14, directed by Barry Rutter, in The Comedy Of Errors, and Sweet William, a new comedy set in an Elizabethan tavern inhabited by Shakespeare and his friends, written especially for the company by Alan Plater. The productions are currently at the NB home base of the Viaduct Theatre in Halifax.
Arts Council England has announced that its Young People's Arts Award, currently being piloted, will go nationwide in the autumn. Modelled on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, it aims to get more 13 to 25 year olds involved in the arts, by rewarding their creative achievements. Currently offered at gold and silver levels (with bronze level in development) it has three parts: Individual Achievement - developing arts skills by setting challenges; The World Of The Arts - participation in local arts activities; and Leadership And Teamworking - planning and running projects involving other people. Participants can choose any art form they wish. Further information and registration can be found on the ACE web site, via the link from Organisations in the Links section of TheatreNet.
The spring season at Nottingham Playhouse includes three world premieres: Amanda Whittington's Satin 'N' Steel, with Norman Pace and Sara Poyzer as an unlikely couple who meet at a karaoke competition and become professionally and personally involved, directed by Esther Richardson, from 25th February to 12th March; Stephen Lowe's Old Big 'Ead - In The Spirit Of The Man (Brian Clough Takes To The Stage Literally), which looks at the life and career of the late football manager, from 3rd to 25th June; and a children's play by Nick Wood, Children Of The Crown, about two royal brothers, who are forced to decide whether to flee or fight for their kingdom after their father and uncle are murdered, directed by Andrew Breakwell, from 1st to 16th July.
The Rumour Machine says: that Helen McCrory and Sienna Miller may star in a West End production of As You Like It, directed by David Lan, in the late spring; and director Harold Prince and playwright Alfred Uhry are collaborating on a new small scale musical about composer Kurt Weill and his wife, actress Lotte Lenya, using Weill's music. The Rumour Machine grinds on.