News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 19th December 2008

The National Theatre's production of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, adapted by Nick Stafford, with Kit Harington, Bronagh Gallagher, Colin Mace and Patrick Kane, directed by Tom Morris and Marianne Elliott, in collaboration with South African puppet company Handspring, will transfer to the New London Theatre, opening on 3rd April. It tells the story of a boy who goes to the battlefield in the First World War to rescue his horse.

The next exhibition at the National, from 19th January, will be Rae Smith: The War Horse Drawings, featuring the designer's drawings that provide the epic backdrop to the staging of War Horse. Beginning with evocations of the rural idyll of Devon in 1911, they take the audience on a journey to the world of the French trenches, seen through the eyes of a traumatised soldier. The exhibition offers an insight into the artistic process behind the designs for one of the most spectacular and successful shows the National has ever staged.

Arts Council England has announced over 200 successful applicants for the pilot programme for its as yet unnamed scheme to offer 618,000 free theatre tickets to 18 to 26 year olds over 2 years from next February. These include a consortium of Off West End theatres, comprising the Almeida, Battersea Arts Centre, Bush, Donmar Warehouse, Greenwich, Hampstead, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Court, Soho, Tricycle, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Young Vic, who will each receive the maximum 300,000 of funding to trial the scheme. Other recipients of smaller awards in London include the National Theatre, Barbican, Rose Kingston, Hackney Empire Studio, Trafalgar Studios, Pleasance, Arcola, Polka Theatre for Children, Blue Elephant, Albany, artsdepot, Harrow Arts Centre, Millfield Arts Centre, Orange Tree, Roundhouse, Gate and Half Moon Young Peoples Theatre. Regional theatres taking part in the scheme include Chichester Festival, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Birmingham Rep, Royal Exchange Manchester, Hull Truck, Crucible Sheffield, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and the Royal Shakespeare Company

It's Official! As previously forecast here, critic Nicholas de Jongh's Plague Over England, exploring attitudes to homosexuality in the 1950s, sparked by John Gielgud's arrest for importuning, directed by Tamara Harvey, seen earlier this year at the Finborough Theatre, will transfer to the Duchess Theatre from 11th February. The producer is Bill Kenwright.

Future productions at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn will include two Edinburgh Fringe hits, the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh's production of David Grieg's Damascus, in which the perceptions of a British book salesman are changed by meeting his contact in the Syrian capital, with Nathalie Armin, Alex Elliott, Dolya Gavanski, Paul Higgins and Khalid Laith, directed by Philip Howard, opening on 9th February; and the Sherman Theatre Cardiff production of Deep Cut, Philip Ralph's documentary play compiled from testimonies and source material in the enquiry into the death of a soldier at Deepcut Barracks, with Ciaran Mcintyre, Rhian Morgan, Rhian Blythe, Robert Blythe, Simon Molloy and Robert Bowman, directed by Mick Gordon, opening on 11th March.

The new year season at Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres will include, at the Everyman: Nick Leather's Billy Wonderful, a coming of age story centred on the local football derby, with Neil Caple, directed by Serdar Bilis, opening on 20th March; and at the Playhouse: a co-production with the all male Propeller Theatre Company of Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice and A Midsummer's Night Dream, directed by Edward Hall, from 22nd January; Arthur Miller's The Price, in which two estranged brothers meet up at their dead father's apartment to dispose of his belongings, directed by Giles Croft, opening on 12th February, a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse; and J B Priestley's When We Are Married, the classic Edwardian comedy about love, marriage and middle class propriety, directed by Ian Brown, opening on 7th May, a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

The winter season at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston will include the British premiere of Theresa Rebeck's The Water's Edge, a contemporary American version of Aeschylus's Agamemnon, set deep in the Massachusetts woods, with Madeleine Potter, directed by Fiona Morrell, opening on 6th February; Howard Barker Victory Choices In Reaction, a widow's quest to salvage a life in England after the Civil War, with Geraldine James, Evie Dawnay and Tom Godwin, directed by Amelia Nicholson, opening on 6th March, a co-production with Iceni; and Jack Shepherd's Only When I Laugh, about backstage squabbles in a 1950s variety theatre, with Jack Shepherd and Jim Bywater, directed by Nicky Henson, from 14th April, produced by Love & Madness.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is asking every Primary and Secondary school in Britain to take part in a national Stand Up For Shakespeare Assemblies Week from 26th to 30th January to explore and debate the importance of Shakespeare. The scheme is in reaction to the recent abolition of Key Stage 3 tests, meaning that pupils no longer have to sit a Shakespeare exam at the end of Year 9. The RSC is inviting teachers to download specially created assembly toolkits from the its web site, which includes a video featuring messages of support from actors including Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, Tamsin Greig, Michelle Gomez and David Tennant. Teachers are also encouraged to post videos of their Shakespeare assemblies on the RSC's YouTube channel.

The Lyric Theatre Hammersmith has confirmed its spring season, following the previously announced British premiere of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, and music by Duncan Sheik, directed by Michael Mayer, with choreography by Bill T Jones, adapted from Frank Wedekind's 1891 expressionist play, about the sexual stirrings of young people in a world where adults create an atmosphere of shame, silence and ignorance, with Charlotte Wakefield, Iwan Rheon and Aneurin Barnard, opening on 3rd February. It will include physical theatre company Gecko's production of Nikolai Gogol's The Overcoat, satirising provincial bureaucracy and the pursuit of material wealth, opening on 23rd March; Hang On, a family show co-created by Theatre-Rites and aerialists Ockham's Razor, performed by an international ensemble who will fly over the audience, directed by Sue Buckmaster, opening on 17th April; and Wuthering Heights, a Bollywood musical style reworking of Emily Bronte's novel charting the doomed love affair of a free spirited wealthy girl and a poor brooding outsider, original concept and book by Deepak Verma, music by Sheema Mukherjee and Felix Cross, lyrics by Felix Cross, with Youkti Patel, Pushpinder Chani, Gary Pillai, Anil Kumar, Sheena Patel, Rina Fatania, Shammi Aulakh, Divian Ladwa, Amith Rahman and Davina Perera, directed by Kristine Landon-Smith, with choreography by Nikki Woollaston, a co-production with Tamasha and Oldham Coliseum, opening on 30th April.