News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th October 2000

Another Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit is heading for London. Molly Bloom: The Earth And The Music will play at the Jermyn Street Theatre from 9th November to 2nd December. Anna Zapparoli performs a musical based on Molly Bloom's monologue from Ulysses, using a grand piano as a bed, with a jazz score composed by Mario Borciani. The show caused controversy when the Joyce estate unsuccessfully tried to ban its performances in Edinburgh.

John Tusa is to remain as managing director at the Barbican Centre for another three years, thus ruling himself out of contention as successor to Michael Kaiser as chief executive of Covent Garden. Tusa is keen to see the 4 year 6m Corporation of London funded refurbishment of the Barbican get under way. A new shell will be built over the stage in the concert hall next summer to improve the acoustic. In addition, the public spaces in the centre are to be redesigned again, with a new internal bridge, in another attempt to make circulation easier and the building more user friendly. Main entrances in Silk Street and on the lakeside will be more clearly defined, with routes to box office and all auditoria clearly visible. (Isn't that what was supposed to have happened last time?) But it's OK there's going to be a new logo.

The swift demise of Janet Suzman's production of The Guardsman starring Greta Scacchi and Michael Pennington on 28th October means an extended life for Simon Callow in The Mystery Of Charles Dickens. Instead of returning to the Comedy for two weeks, the show will reopen at the Albery on 30th October and run through Christmas. Callow brings Charles Dickens to life, plus thirty five of the characters he created, in a tour de force performance in the manner of Dickens himself.

The Little Angel Marionette Theatre in Islington (a stone's throw from the King's Head), which has been uniquely entertaining and educating children for forty years is under threat. The local council is to withdraw funding from next April, and unless alternative finance is found this great little institution will have to close. The theatre stages shows every weekend throughout the year and during the week in school holidays, and tours both nationally and internationally. Additionally it has an extensive and virtually self-financing education programme. It is renowned as one of the most innovative puppet theatres in the world. For many children the Little Angel is their introduction to theatre, and it would be a disgrace if it were allowed to close.

John Retallack has adapted and directed Albert Camus novella The Plague which is playing a premiere season at Dundee Rep until 28th October. Using a mixture of music, dance and speech it tells the story of how people in a city going about their ordinary lives are blighted by the arrival of a plague. It features Irene Macdougal and Robert Conlon among Scotland's only the permanent company of actors, and the choreography is by Janet Smith. The eclectic found score ranges from Bach to Jack Teagarden.

Opera Holland Park, which has just presented the first season with a repertoire consisting entirely of its own productions, has announced a three year partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. From next year the RPO, which this year played for L'amico Fritz, will be resident orchestra for the entire season of six productions. A 750,000 sponsorship deal will also fund an education programme for schools in Chelsea, and enable the top seat price to be maintained at 26. Performances are outdoors, but under a canopy which covers both stage and audience. The season runs from mid June to mid August.

The Shape Ticket Scheme, which gives disabled and elderly people access to reduced price tickets, as well as providing transport and escorts to theatre and music events, has won the Guardian Charity of the Year Award 2000 for excellence and innovation. The organisation would welcome more volunteer driver/escorts. Further information can be found in the Disabilities section of the Box Office area of TheatreNet.

The organ at the Royal Festival Hall, which fell into disuse in the 1980's, has been fully refurbished and modernised and was relaunched this week with the return of The Organ Recital Series of concerts. Widely regarded as one of the finest concert hall instruments in the world, it can now be fully appreciated for the first time in a generation. Leading international players will perform major works from the organ repertoire in a programme which runs until 30th April. Concerts will be preceded by talks designed to give audiences an insight into the instrument, and there is an accompanying exhibition of archive photographs and original mahogany encased electrical components which have been replaced by electronic wizardry.

A new committee has been established to advise the Arts Council on the implementation of its National Policy for Theatre in England. Chaired by Grahame Morris of the Arts Council's Drama Panel, it comprises Stephen Daldry, Brian McMaster, Tony Robinson, Dorothy Wilson, and Professor Lola Young, The committee's remit will cover national strategy for touring, new writing, cultural diversity, access, training and audience development. It will report direct to the government on funding.

English Touring Opera's autumn programme takes two productions across the country until December. These are: a new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute in a revised version of Jeremy Sams translation, directed by Daniel Slater, and a revival of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, which has a libretto by W H Auden.

English National Ballet is to take part in a research programme to study the risks of the bone condition osteoporosis among dancers. Dr Nicola Keay, a former dancer herself, will lead the study which will examine the physical demands which result from dietary restrictions and intense exercise. It will also monitor whether vitamin and mineral supplements can counteract these adverse effects. The National Osteoporosis Society has published a booklet Fit But Fragile which is aimed at educating dancers about the possible dangers.

The much discussed stage version of the 1967 film musical Thoroughly Modern Millie is currently playing a world premiere and prospective pre Broadway season at La Jolla Playhouse in California. Richard Morris and Dick Scanlon have adapted Morris screenplay, adding further 1920s period songs and some new numbers with music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Dick Scanlon. It features Sutton Foster, Tonya Pinkins and Pat Carroll, and is directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Rob Ashford. Further information is available on the La Jolla Playhouse web site via the link from the International Venues section of TheatreNet.