News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st January 2005

Mary Poppins, The Producers and The Woman In White go head to head in most eligible categories in the nominations for this year's Laurence Olivier Awards, with Susan Stroman up for Best Director and Best Choreographer, and Lee Evans and Nathan Lane vying for Best Actor. Despite recent reports of their demise, commercial productions have swamped the National Theatre in this year's drama nominations, with Endgame, Suddenly Last Summer and Hamlet, plus the Almeida's Festen and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? strongly represented, against just The History Boys and His Dark Materials. Newcommers Ben Wishaw and Anna Maxwell Martin take on the heavyweights for Best Actor and Best Actress. The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Hilton Park Lane on Sunday 20th February. Full details can be found on the Society Of London Theatre web site via the link opposite below.

English National Opera has announced its 2005/2006 season, which will feature operas originally written in English, with new productions of Purcell's King Arthur, directed and choreographed by Mark Morris, and Vaughan Williams's Sir John In Love, directed by Ian Judge; plus revivals of Handel's Xerxes and Ariodante, and John Adams's Nixon In China. ENO has adopted Benjamin Britten as house composer, and will perform one of his works each season, starting with the London premiere of Neil Armfield's Welsh National Opera/Opera Australia production of Billy Budd. Other new productions are premieres of Gerald Barry's The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant, directed by Richard Jones, and Gadaffi, a bio-opera about the Libyan leader, by Steve Chandra Savale of Asian Dub Foundation, directed by Antonia Bird, and the UK premiere of Laurent Pelly's Theatre du Chatelet production of La Belle Helene; plus Puccini's Madam Butterfly, directed by Anthony Minghella, Orfeo, the first in a new Monteverdi cycle directed by film director Chen Shi-Zheng, and Janacek's The Makropulos Case, directed by Christopher Alden; together with revivals of The Magic Flute, The Carmelites, Salome and Rigoletto.

Mystery surrounds the future of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, amid rumours that Lloyd Webber has received a 500m offer for both the production and the theatre owning divisions. Another rumour suggests that he wants to split up the theatres, which are half owned with venture capitalists NatWest Equity Partners, selling the drama houses - Apollo, Duchess, Garrick and Lyric theatres - while retaining the musical theatres - Adelphi, Cambridge, Her Majesty's, New London, Palace, Palladium and Theatre Royal Drury Lane (new leases on the Gielgud and Queen's have already been acquired by Cameron Mackintosh). Consultant Patrick McKenna of Ingenious Media has been appointed to assess where the future of the group lies. Both courses of action could be a possibility, since selling off the drama houses first, might ultimately achieve more money for Lloyd Webber, and make the lower price for the remaining parts of the group easier for a possible bidder to raise.

Chichester Festival Theatre has announced its summer season, running from 29th April to 10th September. In the Festival Theatre: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Frank Loesser's satirical musical about the corporate world, directed by Martin Duncan and choreographed by Stephen Mear; Moliere's farce Scapino (or The Trickster), in a new translation by Jeremy Sams, directed by Silviu Purcarete; Alistair McGowan in Gogol's The Government Inspector, about a corrupt small town mayor who mistakes a penniless nobody for an undercover government inspector, in a new version by Alistair Beaton, directed by Martin Duncan; and the world premiere of Edward Kemp's 5/11, which weaves Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot together with contemporary acts of terrorism, with Alistair McGowan, directed by Steven Pimlott. In the Minerva Theatre: David Warner in King Lear, directed by Steven Pimlott; the world premiere of Lee Miller, a musical about the model, artist, friend of Picasso and lover of Man Ray, with book by Edward Kemp, and music and lyrics by Jason Carr, directed by Anthony Van Laast; The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel about adultery and hypocrisy, adapted and directed by Phyllis Nagy; and the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre promenade production of Arabian Nights, adapted by Dominic Cooke, and directed by Dale Rooks.

On The Casting Couch: Janine Duvitski, Tim Howar, Aaron Lazar, Lucy Schaufer, Sylvia Syms, and Willard H White will join Helen Anker, Adam Garcia and Caroline O'Connor in the cast of 55 in On The Town, opening at the Coliseum on 5th March; David Burt, Kulvinder Ghir and Dianne Pilkington will join Hadley Fraser and Gayatri Iyer in The Far Pavilions, opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 14th April; and Simon Russell Beale, Paul Rhys and John Shrapnel will join Ralph Fiennes in Julius Caesar, opening at the Barbican on 20th April.

The Theatre Royal in Plymouth has launched a year long Theatre of Science project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, using drama to discuss issues in contemporary science.

Three plays have been commissioned, with scientists involved in their creation alongside the writers. The Drum will host Seeing Without Light by Simon Turley, a story of three worlds colliding in a single moment, and how life, art and science imitate one another, from 27th January to 5th February, with a variety of post show talks, and Still Life by Charles Way, which explores how science is challenging not only our moral universe, but what it is that makes us human, from 14th to 23rd April; while the TR2 education centre will show Special by Peter Morgan in May. The theatre is also seeking proposals for collaborative projects between scientists and artists, which could receive financial support and rehearsal space at TR2. Further information can be found on the Theatre Royal web site, via the link from the Regional Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The I Soar Theatre Company will score quote a coup, by performing The Fighter, written and directed by Peter Cadwel, about a confrontation between a disturbed youth and a priest in an inner city church, at the Actor's Church, St Paul's Covent Garden, from 10th to 26th February.