News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 19th October 2001

The latest harebrained scheme by Adrian Noble for the Royal Shakespeare Company is to demolish its historic Grade II* listed theatre at Stratford upon Avon, and replace it with a 100m 'waterfront theatre village'. The existing theatre, built in 1932, and designed by Elizabeth Scott in art deco style to resemble an ocean liner on the Avon, has a 1500 seater proscenium arch auditorium. Apparently actors can no longer work in, and audiences can no longer respond in, an auditorium of that size and configuration - despite previous alterations that extended the circle ends towards the stage and pushed the stage forward into the stalls. The proposed replacement is an adaptable 'one room' space with just 1050 seats - downsizing its potential audience by one third. If the RSC receives planning permission, the designs by Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat will be finalised next year, the destruction embarked on the following year, and the work completed by 2008. During this period performances in the Swan would continue, and the recently closed Other Place would be resurrected. The Arts Council has agreed to back the scheme with 50m if the RSC finds the remainder. Time to protest to Stratford District Council, English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society.

The Arts Theatre is capitalising on the short running time of The Vagina Monologues and is to go twice nightly. It has announced Live At The Arts, a new mid evening programme of cabaret and comedy events, starting at 9.15pm and ending around 10.45pm. The idea is to run three to five week seasons, starting on 24th October with Richard Herring. Other performers lined up for the future include Noble And Silver, Jackie Clune and Dillie Keane.

The National Theatre is staging two free exhibitions to as part of its 25th birthday celebrations. In the Olivier foyer, In Rehearsal At The National, based on a soon to be published book, gives an insight into the 'page to stage' process in the rehearsal room, as captured by the company's official photographers, with most of the legendary performers, directors and writers of the last quarter century caught informally. In the Lyttelton foyer, Stop Motion is a collection of images of dancers in rehearsal and performance created by Chris Nash, Britain's foremost dance photographer.

Birmingham Hippodrome finally reopens after its refurbishment on 13th November with a Silver Gala in which resident company Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform David Bintley's latest ballet The Seasons, Prodigal Son and Still Life At The Penguin Cafe.

An exploratory excavation on the site of the Rose Theatre in Bankside has revealed that the remains are in better condition than was previously thought, and well preserved timber planks and posts have been discovered. English Heritage made a grant of 17,500 to enable the work to be carried out. The remains of the Rose, which was built in 1587 and staged plays by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, were rediscovered in 1989 when an office development was being constructed. After a brief examination at that time the remains were covered in a protective layer of sand. The site of the Hope theatre has been discovered nearby and is now being examined. The Rose is the only Elizabethan theatre in the world of which there are substantial remains extant. Further information can be found on the Rose Theatre web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The National Youth Music Theatre will present a new musical, The Dreaming, with book and lyrics Charles Hart and music by Howard Goodall, at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House from 18th to 29th December. Set in the woods of a Somerset country estate in June 1914, there is a more than passing resemblance to Shakespeare, as it involves supernatural beings, young lovers, and the villagers rehearsing and performing The Ballad of St George and the Dragon. Russell Labey and Jeremy James Taylor direct.

An inaugural International Festival of Musical Theatre will be held in Cardiff from 18th October to 3rd November 2002. The event will be a celebration of the art form of Musical Theatre, old and new, large and small, combining performances, cabaret, masterclasses and a conference. If successful it will be held on a biennial basis. The Festival is instituting The Global Search For New Musicals, the finalists of which will be showcased during the event. Entries are welcomed from all countries and at all levels from professionals to first time writers, the only stipulation being that shows must not have been previously professionally produced. A team of 125 professional practitioners will consider the submissions that must arrive by 14th January. Further information can be found on the IFMT web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

While Raymond Brigg's The Snowman will be back at the Peacock Theatre for Christmas, he will also be making an altogether posher appearance in Scotland. The Birmingham Rep production, with a score by Howard Blake, choreographed by Robert North, and directed by Bill Alexander, will be playing its fourth London season. Meanwhile, Scottish Ballet is presenting the UK premiere of a new ballet that opens at the Theatre Royal Glasgow on 14th December, and then tours to Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. 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. Now North has created an extended two act version of the Gothenburg ballet. All versions use the Howard Blake score from the animated film.

The London Bubble Theatre Company, which usually performs in parks during the summer, is coming indoors again for Christmas to present Cinderella at the Cochrane Theatre, from 11th December to 12th January. Writer and director Jonathan Petherbridge has as always given the traditional story a contemporary twist. The show will play extra daytime schools performances. Further details can be found on the London Bubble web site via the link from the UK Theatre Companies section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan will take Howard Davies production of Noel Coward's Private Lives to Broadway when its London run ends in January; that Charlotte Jones new play Humble Boy will move from the National to the West End early in the new year - but without Diana Rigg; and that Bernadette Peters will finally make her West End debut in Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy next year - although we've heard that so many times Waiting For Godot might be more appropriate. The Rumour Machine grinds on.