News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 19th November 2004

Subsidised productions have wiped the floor with commercial productions in this year’s Evening Standard Theatre Awards nominations. They include: Richard Griffiths - The History Boys, Douglas Hodge - Dumb Show and Stanley Townsend - Shining City battling for Best Actor; and Pam Ferris - Notes On Falling Leaves, Victoria Hamilton - Suddenly Last Summer and Kelly Reilly - After Miss Julie vying for Best Actress; but if The Producers is beaten by Sweeney Todd or A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum there will be bloodshed when the winners are announced at the National Theatre on 13th December. The full list of nominees can be found on the This Is London web site via the link from the Guides section of TheatreNet.

Following an appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe, Dr Bunhead’s Recipe For Disaster is coming to the Comedy Theatre for afternoon performances from 20th December to 2nd January. Tom Pringle as the Doctor uses simple language and everyday objects to perform an array of experiments that reveal how the world works, involving young audience members, gunge and (slightly) controlled explosions, aiming at 5-105 year olds.

Playing alongside at the Comedy Theatre at evening performances will be Arthur Smith: Dante’s Inferno, Smith’s account of his struggle with alcohol, also from 20th December to 2nd January.

The James Menzies-Kitchin Memorial Trust is inviting applications for the 2005 Young Theatre Director's Award. The Trust was formed in 1996 with the aim of assisting young untried directors. A Bursary of £12,000 is awarded, together with help and support, and a space at the Battersea Arts Centre for three weeks to enable the recipient to direct a classic text of their choice. Applicants must be British theatre professionals under the age of 30 who have directed no more than two professional productions. The deadline for applications is 10th January. Further information can be found on the JMK Trust web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The spring season at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester will include Antony And Cleopatra starring Tom Mannion and Josette Bushell-Mingo, directed by Braham Murray; a new play by Simon Stephens On The Shore Of The Wide World, ‘an epic about love, family, Roy Keane and the size of the galaxy’, directed by Sarah Frankcom, which is a co-production with the National Theatre where it will transfer; Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn, about two brothers trying to live the high life in New York, directed by Jacob Murray; and the postponed premiere of the musical Sex, Chips And Rock ‘N’ Roll, with book and lyrics by Debbie Horsfield and music by Hereward Kaye, which follows the exploits of teenagers growing up Manchester in the 1960s, directed by Jonathan Moore.

This year’s Spitalfields Winter Festival, running from 13th to 22nd December, relaunches Nicholas Hawkesmoor’s Christ Church, after its closure for restoration. The festival will explore the sound of the festive season through the centuries, from some of the earliest written Christmas music right 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 City of London Choir, the European Union Baroque Orchestra, and the Gabrieli Consort and Players. All this, plus free events, and winter walks around the Spitalfields and Shorditch area, home of one of the great baroque churches of Europe. Further information can be found on the Spitalfields Festival web site via the link form the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Ruth Leon’s Gershwin, recently published by Haus Books, is about the all too brief life and work of American composer George Gershwin, who was a bridge between serious music and popular entertainment. The book evokes the pace and colour of New York in the 1920s and 1930s, and places Gershwin at the centre of the Jazz Age. It charts the rise of the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to his position as one of the leading composers of the 20th century, which made Gershwin the embodiment of the American dream. The book is entertaining and informative, with a chronology putting Gershwin in a cultural and historical context, as well as providing a list of his songs, and side panels that throw extra light on the background and details of his life and work.

Femme Fatale, a comedy musical, with book and lyrics by Phil Willmott, and music by Stefan Bednarczyk, directed by Ted Craig, will premiere at The Warehouse Theatre in Croydon from 12th December to 20th February. A pastiche of Hollywood Film Noir, it tells the story of a rookie reporter sent out to dig the dirt on a mysterious beauty that the press have dubbed the Black Widow, and her latest millionaire groom.

In common with other opera companies, Opera North is raiding the musical theatre catalogue with a production of One Touch Of Venus, with book by S J Perelman and Ogden Nash, music by Kurt Weil, and lyrics by Nash, opening at the Grand Theatre in Leeds on 4th December. In 1940s New York, a humble barber visiting a museum inadvertently brings an ancient statue of Venus to life, by slipping his fiancee’s ring on the statue’s finger, which unleashes a complex series of events. The show features Karen Coker, Loren Geeting, Ron Li-Paz, Christianne Tisdale, Eric Roberts and Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts, and is directed by Tim Albery, with choreography by William Tucket.

Jeffrey Holland, Louise Jameson, Kevin Kennedy and Joe Pasquale will star in Ray Cooney’s latest farce Tom, Dick And Harry, written with his son Michael, which aims to open in the West End in March. Centred on a man who wants to adopt a baby, it involves illegal immigrants, a dead body, a marital collapse, a death threat from the Russian mafia, and a first wife he never knew he had.

The Rumour Machine says: that Robert Daws has devised a one man show Summoned By Betjeman from the writing of John Betjeman, which he is hoping to perform in the West End in the new year; that Jane Asher is to star as food guru Elizabeth David in a stage adaptation of Artemis Cooper’s biography Writing At The Kitchen Table, being developed by producer Michael White; and that Russell Taylor and Charles Peattie, creators of the Daily Telegraph cartoon character Alex, a devious corporate financier, have written a stage play about the character, and are looking for a West End producer - no less likely than Toby Young’s current show. The Rumour Machine grinds on.