News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th February 1998

The new Bill Kenwright backed Peter Hall Company season at the Piccadilly Theatre will be a modified repertoire, with eight shows a week and no Sunday performances. It opens on 10th March with Alan Dobie, Julian Glover and Terence Rigby in a revival of last season's Waiting For Godot; joined as forecast by Peter Bowles, Elaine Paige and Michael Pennington in Moliere's The Misanthrope on 26th March; Shaw's Major Barbara with Peter Bowles, David Yelland and Anna Cartaret plays from 14th May; Eduardo Filippo's Filumena with Judi Dench and Michael Pennington opens on 8th October; followed by Much Ado About Nothing with Michael Pennington and Eric Sykes. A further new play, yet to be confirmed, will complete the season.

The previously mentioned Donmar Warehouse double bill of Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy will open at the Comedy Theatre on 22nd April. The cast includes Desmond Barritt, Anna Chancellor, Sarah Crowe, Nichola McAuliffe and Gary Waldhorn, and the director is Gregory Doran. The plays, presented together for the first time, are great comedies, despite the po-faced description by the producers as: "subverting the traditional perception of the theatre experience". This marks a new venture by Sam Mendes and Donmar, under the banner of Warehouse Productions, mounting shows direct into the West End. Warehouse, working in association with theatre owners Associated Capital Theatres in London and the Shubert Organisation in New York, has two further projects in mind.

The Almeida Theatre's plans for world domination leap forward with rumours of a West End residency like the Peter Hall Company. Talks are going ahead with Associated Capital Theatres (owners of the Piccadilly) with the Albery Theatre in mind. It is thought likely that the arrangement will be for Almeida productions to transfer from their Islington and Malvern theatres, rather than to actually originate new work. The Albery, under its earlier name of the New Theatre, famously provided a West End home for Old Vic productions in the 1940's.

On the Casting Couch: Joining the already announced Broadway originals in Rent will be Krysten Cummings, Jessica Tezier, Rachel MacFarlane, Angela Bradley and Josie Cohen; Lloyd Owen, seen in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? last year, makes up the quartet for the transfer of Closer to the Lyric; Sara Crowe (again) will play Lorelei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Open Air Theatre; Joanna Riding and Sonia Swaby are in the National's big top production of Oh, What A Lovely War!; and Eileen Atkins is now rumoured to be joining Michael Gambon in Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man.

The Royal Ballet's caravan comes to rest at the Coliseum in July with Manon, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake . This time they will be working with a commercial producer - Victor Hochhauser. Perhaps his marketing experience, together with a more suitable venue, will ensure a better turn out than some of their other expeditions.

The reinvigorated Vivian Ellis Prize has developed both its selection process and awards. There will be a team of up to 40 readers to assess the entrants, each of whom will receive a short appraisal of their work. Four prizes will be awarded, rather than a single winning musical: Most Promising Lyricist, Most Promising Composer, Most Promising Librettist/Bookwriter and the Vivian Ellis Trophy for Most Promising Musical. The showcase of the finalists will be held at Her Majesty's Theatre on 1st October. Closing date for entries is 3rd April, and full details and application forms are available from Chris Grady, Vivian Ellis Prize, Rose-Morris, 11 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LS, 0171 836 7732. The Prize would welcome additional offers of sponsorship.