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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 18th June 2004

With 24,326 performances, of 1,695 shows, in 236 venues, involving 735 companies, and 15,629 performers, the 58th Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running from 8th to 30th August, is once again bigger than ever, retaining its position as the world's largest arts festival. As usual, new work plays a significant part, and 45% of the shows are premieres - 33% world, 6% European and 6% UK. Highlights include: My Life As A 10 Year Old Boy, a one woman show by Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson); Jenny Eclair in The Andy Warhol Syndrome exploring 15 minutes of fame; Chris Neill in The BBC, Andrew Gilligan And Me; Kenneth - What Is The Frequency?, an absurdist mystery rife with conspiracy theories, by 74th Street Theatre Lab; and Bang Bang You're Dead, about the Columbine High School massacre, by The Red Chair Players. Among the wackier venues and events, Curry Tales will be performed in an Indian restaurant; A Mobile Thriller will take place driving round in a Maserati sports car; and Mark Watson will perform his stand up act for 24 hours non-stop at the Cowgate Theatre, making it the longest show in Fringe history - and the best value at only 3. Further information and online booking can be found on the Edinburgh Fringe web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Watermill Theatre Newbury production of Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd, with book by Hugh Wheeler, directed by John Doyle, will transfer to the Trafalgar Studios on 27th July, following a regional tour. The show retells the Victorian melodrama, about the demon barber of Fleet Street, who cut the throats of his customers, whose corpses were then baked into pies in the shop beneath. The company of actor musicians comprises Paul Hegarty and Karen Mann, with Michael Howcroft, Rebecca Jackson, Stephanie Jacob, Rebecca Jenkins, Sam Kenyon, David Ricardo-Pearce and Colin Wakefield. It is presented in London by Adam Kenwright, the Ambassador Theatre Group and Ted Tulchin.

The Barbican has announced the productions that will make up the remainder of its BITE:04 season. These will include: Compagnie Jerome Thomas with their idiosyncratic Cirque Lili, the Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory productions of Macbeth and Thomas Middleton's The Changeling; the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; Bobby Baker with How To Live; David Gordon performing his dance adaptation of Ionesco's The Chairs; Yukio Ninagawa's new English language production of Hamlet; Julian Fox's new multi-media extravaganza New Spaces For Role Models; the Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britan with Anarchy In The Ukelele; Cloud Gate Dance Theatre Of Taiwan's Bamboo Dream, which uses 70 bamboo trees to create a landscape for the dancers to explore; Rufus Norris's Sleeping Beauty, based on Charles Parrault's 17th century classic; and the return of Duckie! and their cabaret C'est Barbican!.

Circus Oz, the original contemporary circus company, returns to London with a new show, at the Royal Festival Hall from 20th August to 5th September. The Australian company was the first to stage a show entirely devoted to circus skills rather than animals in 1977. It is presented in London by Raymond Gubbay.

On The Casting Couch: David Bradley and Annette Crosbie star in Rebecca Lenkiewicz's new play The Night Season, directed by Lucy Bailey, opening at the National Theatre on 3rd August.

Raymond Brigg's The Snowman will be back at the Peacock Theatre for a sixth West End season from 8th December to 9th January. The Birmingham Rep production, with a score by Howard Blake, is choreographed by Robert North, and directed by Bill Alexander. Robert North's original one act ballet version of the story was created for Gothenburg Ballet in Sweden in 1993. He then went on to work on the Birmingham Rep show in 1997. Three years ago, North created an extended two act ballet for Scottish Ballet. All versions use the Howard Blake score from the animated film.

Michael Grandage will direct the musical Guys And Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, and book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerlin, in the West End early next year, a co-production by the Donmar Warehouse and the Ambassador Theatre Group. The "musical fable of Broadway" is based on Damon Runyan's short stories of colourful New York characters, revolving around a gambler who bets he can make the next girl he sees fall in love with him, only to find that she is a Salvation Army worker.

The Theatre Museum is presenting a monthly series of interviews under the title Balcony On The West End, from 6pm to 7pm on the second Friday of each month. Guests lined up in the next few months are: designer Christopher Oram on 9th July, arts administrator Anthony Field on 13th August, Rambert Dance Company Artistic Director Mark Baldwin on 10th September and Royal Ballet dancer Ivan Putrov on 8th October.

Broadway's 2003/2004 season, which ended recently, saw both box office and attendance numbers up slightly on 2002/2003. Box office revenue was $771m, up $50m on the previous season, and attendances were 11.6m, up from 11.42 million. This was despite a decrease in playing weeks - the number of weeks in which theatres were filled - at 1,451, down from 1,544. The season saw 39 shows open, 3 more than 2002/2003, but several of those had very short runs.

This year's Greenwich and Docklands Festival, which runs from 2nd to 24th July, is bigger than ever, with even more ambitious events, all free and taking place outdoors. Highlights include: The Wisdom Of Africa, with theatre, music, dance, circus, storytelling, and multimedia projections, at the Old Royal Naval College; traditional Vietnamese water puppetry at the Royal Observatory; Dancing City, with all kinds of dance in the squares and waterfronts of Canary Wharf, including Axial's choreography in a plastic bubble, a Bollywood extravaganza from Simmy Gupta with a fountain and cascading water effects; Supernova, a waterfront extravaganza combining sculptural imagery, video projections, fireworks and performance poetry at the University of East London in Royal Albert Dock; and Festival Finale, a night time procession of gigantic illuminated bird puppets accompanied by music and pyrotechnics, in Mile End Park. Further information can be found on the G&DF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that last year's Manchester production of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, starring Lily Savage, will transfer to the Victoria Palace Theatre for a Christmas season; that Charlotte Church may star in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway (although New York money is on local girl Erin Dilly); and that Timothy West will star in Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman for English Touring Theatre next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.