News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 19th September 2008

While presenting the National Theatre's Annual Report for 2007/2008, Nicholas Hytner announced some future production plans, which include: Jean Racine's Phaedra, with Helen Mirren and Margaret Tyzack, directed by Hytner; Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage And Her Children, with Fiona Shaw, directed by Deborah Warner; Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, directed by Marianne Elliott; Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen Of Carthage, directed by James Macdonald; Georg Buchner's Danton's Death, directed by Michael Grandage; J B Priestley's Time And The Conways, directed by Rupert Goold; and Wole Soyinka's Death And The King's Horseman, directed by Rufus Norris; plus the premieres of Richard Bean's England People, Very Nice, set in east London over four waves of immigration: French, Irish, Jewish and Bengali, directed by Hytner; and Matt Charman's The Observer, about an election official sent to observe a contest in an African country, directed by Richard Eyre. The National had a good year financially in 2007/2008, producing a surplus of £93,000, with turnover at a record £49m, and attendances of 730,000, which was 87% of capacity. There were 26 productions, 19 of which were new, with 3 touring the UK for 25 weeks, 1 touring internationally, 1 returning to the West End, and 1 transferring to Broadway. In total, 920,000 people saw performances given by the National during the year.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the Australian musical The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, adapted by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, from the 1994 Australian film, about three drag queens on a road trip to Alice Springs, using existing disco songs, with Jason Donovan, Oliver Thornton and Clive Carter, plus Tony Sheldon from the original production, directed by Simon Phillips, will open at the Palace Theatre on 23rd March. The producers are Back Row Productions, Specific Films, Allan Scott and the Really Useful Theatre Company.

The Donmar Warehouse has announced a further production in its current season, and casting for two upcoming shows. Athol Fugard's Dimetos, a story about love, guilt and retribution, which explores faith in a modern world of moral decay, with Jonathan Pryce, directed by Douglas Hodge, will open on 25th March. Samuel West and Penelope Wilton will be joined by Hattie Morahan, Anna Carteret, Una Stubbs, Gemma Jones, Paul Shelley, William Gaunt, Kevin McMonagle, Ann Marcuson and Christopher Benjamin in The Family Reunion, opening on 25th November; and Ian McDiarmid will be joined by Blythe Duff, Kath Howden, David McGranaghan, Richard Madden, Helen Mallon, Colette O'Neil and Jimmy Yuill in Be Near Me, opening on 26th January.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark will stage the musical A Little Night Music, book by Hugh Wheeler, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, adapted from Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film Smiles Of A Summer Night, which involves tangled romances in turn of the 20th century Sweden, directed by Trevor Nunn, from 21st November.

As part of its Masterclass programme for young people who have an interest in theatre, or are keen to pursue a career in the arts, the Theatre Royal Haymarket is staging TheatreCraft 2008, a day long careers event at the London Coliseum on 28th November, with workshops, demonstrations, talks and displays to enable young people to find out about non-performing careers in theatre. During the event The Stage will launch a series of ebook guides to backstage careers in the entertainment industry, edited by A K Bennett-Hunter. Prior to this, the autumn Masterclass season will include talks by Richard Eyre on 10th October and Joanna Lumley on 17th October. Sessions begin at 2.30pm and last around two hours. Events are open to people aged between 17 and 30 and mature students, and are free of charge - but there is a refundable deposit required confirming the booking. Those aged over 30 who would like to attend can now subscribe to a Friends scheme. Further information and online booking can be found on the Masterclass web site, via the link from Organisations in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The repertoire for Rambert Dance Company's autumn tour, which opens at the Lowry in Salford on 25th September, will comprise the premiere of Mark Baldwin's Eternal Light, set to music by Howard Goodall; Christopher Bruce's Swansong; Siobhan Davies's Carnival Of The Animals; Andre Gingras's Anatomica # 3; Garry Stewart's Infinity; and two pieces choreographed by Rambert dancers: A Tribute To Norman Morrice by Mikaela Polley and Alexander Whitley, and See Me by Martin Joyce and Angela Towler.

The Bush Theatre in Shepherd's Bush has come up with a pragmatic response to the fact that problems with the building prevent it from using its lighting system, by presenting The Broken Space Season, ten new short plays in three themes starting at 7.30pm, 8.30pm and 9.30pm from 7th to 25th October. Different plays will be seen each night in the first and last slots, accompanying the premiere of Declan Feenan's St Petersburg, with Geoffrey Hutchings, Mairead McKinley, Bradley Ford and Zak Bann-Murray, directed by James Grieve, in the central one. The first slot, under the title Falling Light, will comprise monologues performed by the street lights of Shepherd's Bush Green through the uncovered windows of the theatre: Simon Stephens's Sea Wall, with Andrew Scott, directed by George Perrin; Bryony Lavery's Bufonidae, directed by Nathan Curry; and Neil LaBute's The War On Terror, performed by Michelle Terry. The third slot, under the title What The Dark Feels Like, will comprise ghost stories performed in near or total darkness: Anthony Weigh's The Flooded Grave, directed by Josie Rourke; Mike Bartlett's He Said…, directed by Anthony Weigh; Jack Thorne's Two Cigarettes, directed by Anthea Williams; Ben Schiffer's His Ghostly Heart, directed by Hamish Pirie; Lucy Kirkwood's Psychogeography; and Nancy Harris's Little Dolls, directed by Charlote Gwinner.

The Rumour Machine says: that the sequel to the musical The Phantom Of The Opera, in which the Phantom has slipped away to New York and set up a fairground attraction in Coney Island, will be called Love Never Dies; and that the Australian theatre group Company B's production of Michael Gow's Toy Symphony, about a playwright who regresses to his childhood during therapy sessions to overcome writer's block, directed by Neil Armfield, may play at the Trafalgar Studios. The Rumour Machine grinds on.