News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th June 2003

Once again this year the National Theatre is presenting Watch This Space, its free outdoor festival in Theatre Square from 20th June to 23rd August, with a programme that includes DJs, kathak dance, Greek music, acrobatics, sand sculptures, flamenco, mime, jazz, martial arts, African drumming, salsa, physical theatre, blues, Commedia del Arte, rumba, clowns, contemporary dance, aerialists, comedy and pyrotechnics. Events are at 6.15pm every day, plus at 1.15pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and at 2.15pm, 5pm and 10.15pm on Saturdays. Further information can be found on the National Theatre web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The autumn programme at the Bridewell Theatre starts with Brenda Bly: Teen Detective, with book and lyrics by Kevin Hammonds, and music by Charles Miler, directed by Fenton Gray, and choreographed by Sam Spencer Lane, from 31st August to 20th September. Set an American high school in the optimistic time of rock and roll and space discovery that was 1958, it is a kind of transatlantic Daisy Pulls It Off: The Next Generation. Opera della Luna's contemporary production of Offenbach's La Belle Helene, in a new translation by director Jeff Clarke, with choreography by Jenny Arnold, follows from 23rd to 27th September. The legend of Priam and Helen of Troy is the basis of a satire on society, government and the church, which caused a scandal when it first appeared, and is determined to do so again.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Richard Eyre's National Theatre production of Nicholas Wright's Vincent In Brixton is returning from Broadway to the West End. It will open a two month season at the Playhouse Theatre on 10th July prior to a national tour. The play centres on the relationship between the young Vincent Van Gogh and his mature landlady when he lived at a boarding house in Brixton. Casting has yet to be confirmed.

Director/choreographer Susan Stroman is to be reunited with actor Nathan Lane in June next year for a new version of Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove's musical The Frogs in the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at the Lincoln Centre in New York. The show is based on an Aristophanes play featuring a Heavenly debate between Aeschylus and Euripides to determine who is the greater artist, so that he can be returned to earth to save civilization. In Sondheim and Shevelove's version, which was first staged in the Yale swimming pool in 1974, the story is updated to a debate between William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. Lane is reworking the book, and Sondheim may write some new songs.

On The Casting Couch: Helen Mirren, Eve Best and Paul Hilton will star in Eugene O'Neil's Mourning Becomes Electra, directed by Howard Davies, at the National Theatre in November. The play relocates the Orestes/Electra story in the American Civil War.

Ashley Page has announced his first season as artistic director of the troubled Scottish Ballet, and despite the board of directors previous determination to 'go entirely contemporary', which led to the departure of his predecessor, it is as before, a mixture of a ancient and modern. The repertoire, which launches on 25th September at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, will comprise late 20th century classics: Dangerous Liaisons by Richard Alston, White Man Sleeps by Siobhan Davies, MiddleSex Gorge by Stephen Petronio, and Cheating Lying Stealing by Ashley Page. The Christmas production will be a new version of The Nutcracker, also by Page, returning to the story's origins and the darker world of E T A Hoffman, opening on 17th December at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.

The Frank Matcham designed Hackney Empire will reopen after a 15m refurbishment on 8th September with the National Theatre production of Kwame Kwei-Armah's Elmina's Kitchen, as it starts a national tour. The scheme has created an orchestra pit capable of accommodating 60 musicians, a rebuilt fly tower, a new dressing room block and a studio theatre. The reopening season will include Peter Hall's production of As You Like It, with Rebecca Hall, Erik Sykes and Philip Voss, transferred from the Theatre Royal Bath; the premiere of The Classical Opera Company's production of Mozart's unfinished opera Zaide, which has themes of tyranny, imprisonment, power and love (the usual suspects), completed by Michael Symmons Roberts using existing Mozart music, directed by Jude Kelly, with Cora Burggraaf, Christopher Saunders, Jonathan Gunthorpe and Nigel Robson; and at Christmas, the return of Hackney favourite Clive Rowe in Aladdin.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's Adopt An Actor scheme for educational establishments worldwide is back again this year. Schools, colleges and universities can adopt one of five members of the company, and throughout the season regular bulletins are posted on the Globelink web site regarding his/her activities during the rehearsal and performance process. There is also an activity programme based on what 'their' actor is currently doing, such as researching the play, providing alternative casting options and icebreaker games during rehearsals. Further information, including this year's 'orphan' actors can be found on the Shakespeare's Globe web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Dianne Wiest will join Maggie Smith in the Broadway premiere of David Hare's Breath Of Life; that Jake Gyllenhall is in discussion with 'director to the Hollywood stars' Laurence Boswell about playing Romeo in the West End; that the 1957 Elvis Presley film Jailhouse Rock is being adapted for the stage with the West End in mind next year.; and that despite an abrupt end to its six month Broadway run, the producers of Baz Luhrman's La Boheme are scheduling a season in London from May to October next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.