Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
Bill Kenwright's troubled production of Pygmalion is now on its fourth director as Ray Cooney replaces Anne Mitchell. Hopefully our veteran farceur will make it to the Albery. Surprisingly the show is still on its second Eliza (Carli Norris) as no star name seems prepared to accept the poisoned chalice/flower basket. But its still ten days to go before the West End opening, so who knows? Meanwhile Kenwright has extended Lady Windermere's Fan at the Theatre Royal Haymarket by a further week to 26th July, and will follow it with a third West End season of the Peter Hall Company's production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Martin Shaw continues as Lord Goring, this time joined by Kate O'Mara as Mrs Cheveley.
Reputable ticket agents are co-operating in an effort to outlaw touts or scalpers. Plans will be announced soon for an ABTA style organisation called STAR - the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers. The aim is uphold standards and protect consumers, with members abiding by a code of practice. Reputable approved members will be able to display the STAR logo as a guarantee of fair trading, while dissatisfied customers can appeal to an independent monitoring panel. Proposals are currently being vetted by the Office of Fair Trading.
Umabatha - The Zulu Macbeth comes back to London from 4th to 8th August as part of Globe To Globe, the first international festival at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Written by Welcome Msomi, it relocates the story of Macbeth in a 19th century Zulu context. Performed in Zulu with English surtitles, it incorporates music and dance, with a cast of forty. It was first seen in the late 1960's in one of the RSC's World Theatre Seasons at the Aldwych Theatre.
The Slow Drag, which premiered at the Freedom Theatre is hoping to move in to the West End courtesy of Sandpiper Productions. Carson Kreitzer's musical was inspired by the story of Billy Tipton, an American jazz trumpeter who having lived as a man - including marrying and having children - was found after his death to have been a woman. A kind of reverse M Butterfly. Nikki Slade, Kim Criswell and Christopher Colquhoun starred previously and Lisa Forrell directed.
Matthew Francis intends his production of Side By Side By Sondheim at Greenwich Theatre to remain as fresh as possible during its run from 24th July to 6th September. Although the singers Kathryn Evans, Liza Sadovy and David Malek will be resident throughout, the Master of Ceremonies will be changed regularly like soiled linen. Dawn French, Simon Fanshaw, Sheridan Morley, Phillip Franks and even Roy Hattersley will be appearing in the role of Ned Sherrin, in order to "fully explore the possibilities of the piece". No hint of a gimmick there then.