News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 18th November 2005

Patrick Stewart will return to the West End with his award winning one man adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in which he plays 40 characters, at the Albery Theatre from 7th to 31st December, presented by Camm Lane Productions and Kate Elliott. With Scrooge already at the London Palladium and a version of the story aimed at children to come at Trafalgar Studios, it could be that London will be Christmas Carolled out this year.

Prior to this at the Albery, in honour of Harold Pinter's 75th birthday and recent Nobel Prize, there will be a rehearsed reading of Celebration, directed by Alan Stanford, on 1st, 2nd and 3rd December. Set in a restaurant, it follows two sets of celebrating parties, beneath whose bonhomie lie dark Pinterian subtexts. The cast will include Sinead Cusack, Janie Dee, Michael Gambon, Jeremy Irons, Stephen Rea, Kenneth Cranham, Charles Dance and Penelope Wilton, all of whom have previously appeared in Pinter plays. It is a collaboration between the Gate Theatre, Dublin, and Sonia Friedman.

The musical Jack The Ripper, with book and lyrics by Ron Pember and Denis de Marne, and music by Ron Pember, directed by Tim McArthur, will play at the Jermyn Street theatre from 29th November to 22nd December. The story of the infamous Whitechapel murders is told using the conventions of the Victorian music hall. The company comprises Kris Abrahams, Alex Browne, Janine Hales, Peter Huntley, Mark Lambourne, Philip Lee, Hannah Lindo, Clare Lomas, William Ludwig, Cathy McManamon, Leanne Masterton and Maggie Robson. The producer is Trilby Productions.

The Gate Theatre Notting Hill has won this year's Empty Space Peter Brook Award for the support of new writers and directors in small studio spaces that receive comparatively little or no public funding. Among its recent productions were the Chilean play Tejas Verdas, when the theatre was transformed into a promenade forest, an audacious and innovative presentation of Buchner's Woyzeck, and an updated version of the musical Hair. The Up And Coming Award, for theatres either still struggling for recognition after years of productions or recently opened venues, was won by the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark, whose productions have included the one man tour de force Totally Committed about a Manhattan restaurant reservation maker, and Jonathan Larson's autobiographical musical about a frustrated musical theatre writer Tick, Tick… Boom!. A new Dan Crawford Pub Theatre Award was won by the Finborough in Earl's Court.

The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester has launched the Bruntwood Playwriting Competition, with prizes totalling £45,000, open to writers of all ages and experience. Submissions will be judged by a panel that will include Brenda Blethyn, Kwarme Kwei-Armah and Nicholas Hyntner, chaired by former culture secretary Chris Smith. The winner will receive £15,000 and a production in the main auditorium, the second prize will be £10,000 and a production in the Studio, and the third prize will be £5,000. There will be a special award of £5,000 for a writer under 26, and a bursary for a new talent to be writer in residence for a year. The winning plays will be staged during the inaugural Manchester International Festival in 2007. Entries must be received by 30th April. Further information and an application form can be found on the RET web site via the link from Regional Theatres in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The Royal Court Theatre's 50th anniversary season begins on 12th January with O Go My Man, a new play by Stella Feehily, with Denise Gough, Sam Graham, Paul Hickey, Susan Lynch, Gemma Reeves, Aoife McMahon, Mossie Smith and Ewan Stewart, directed by Max Stafford-Clark. Set in contemporary Dublin, it looks at relationships in a hectic world of personal and professional commitments and global issues. It is a co-production with Out Of Joint.

Brits On Broadway: Jim Dale and Alan Cumming will join Edie Falco and Nellie McKay in Wallace Shawn's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, in a Roundabout Theatre Company production directed by Scott Elliott, which will open at Studio 54 on 20th April. Set in Victorian London, the show borrows the plot of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera from a century earlier, in which, when a criminal marries a young girl, her disapproving father attempts to engineer his imprisonment.

This year's Spitalfields Winter Festival, centred on Nicholas Hawkesmoor's Christ Church, one of the great baroque churches of Europe, runs from 12th to 21st December. The festival explores the sound of the festive season through the centuries, from some of the earliest written Christmas music up to the present day, employing musical forces ranging from local residents and workers at a Community Carol Service and Sing Gospel event, to the Choir of New College Oxford, Concanentes, the Holst Singers, Black Voices and the Gabrieli Consort and Players. Other venues include St Botolph's Aldgate, Shoreditch Church and the Chapel Royal in the Tower of London. All this, plus free events, bell ringing, and winter walks and visits around the Spitalfields and Shorditch area. Further information can be found on the Spitalfields Festival web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Dawn French and Alison Moyet, with June Watson, will star in Smaller, a play with music by television writer Carmel Morgan, directed by Kathy Burke, opening at the Lyric Theatre on 4th April. It is a wistful comedy about two sisters whose lives have taken very different paths.

Jeffrey Richards's book Sir Henry Irving: A Victorian Actor And His World, recently published by Hambledon & London, is not just the story of an actor, but of the man who brought respectability to the whole profession, and was the first actor to be knighted. Irving was neither rogue nor vagabond, but a pillar of society, and friend of peers, churchmen, city financiers, writers and painters. This is not a conventional biography, but rather a study of the times in which he flourished, and of the social changes that occurred in that period. As well as the role that made his name, as a good man tortured to death by his conscience, after succumbing to one evil act in The Bells, Irving played many noble martyrs and historical figures, as well as the great Shakespearian roles.

The Rumour Machine says: that Philip Quast will play Peron in the new production of Evita, directed by Michael Grandage, which will open at the Adelphi Theatre in May; that the Tony award winning Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holtzman musical Wicked, which tells the early story of the Witches from The Wizard Of Oz, will open at the Apollo Victoria next autumn; and that Vanessa Redgrave will star in the Broadway production of David Hare's Breath Of Life. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . If stand up was the new rock 'n' roll, then is drama the new stand up? London Bites, conceived by Melissa Leigh, will be launched on 5th December as a regular monthly event at Madame JoJo's. It will comprise a bill of 15 pre-auditioned or invited professional actors performing 5 to 10 minute monologues, duologues or scenes, mixing drama and comedy by new writers, for an audience of directors, actors, theatre professionals and theatregoers. Further information about how to join the performers or the audience can be found on the Stand Up Drama web site via the link from Theatre Companies in the Links section of TheatreNet.