News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st March 1997

The Vivian Ellis Prize for new musical theatre writing is being relaunched in its 13th year. A new charity, the Vivian Ellis Prize Ltd has been set up, sponsored by the Performing Rights Society, with support from the Friends of Vivian Ellis Prize, and in collaboration with Stoll Moss Theatres. Cash prizes totalling 3,000 will be awarded, but as always, it is the exposure of new writers that is most important. Charles Hart didn't win the Prize, but he came to the attention of Andrew Lloyd Webber (one of the judges) who asked him to write lyrics for The Phantom Of The Opera. Not bad for second prize! The closing date for entries is 16th May and the workshop of the 5 finalists will be held at her Majesty's Theatre on 11th September. Full details and application forms are available from Abigail Anderson, Administrator, Vivian Ellis Prize, King's Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN.

Alan Bates has enjoyed a long association with Simon Gray, having not just appeared in many of his plays, but also played Gray himself in a TV adaptation of his diary. This continues with Gray's new play Life Support which will be directed by Harold Pinter and should be arriving in the West End this summer. Bates reprised the leading character from Gray's Otherwise Engaged in his follow up play Simply Disconnected which appeared at Chichester last year, but was poorly received and did not transfer.

Details of previously trailed new plays at the Lyttleton: Patrick Marber's Closer, a serious comic look at modern love, opens on 29th May, with a cast which includes Sally Dexter and Ciaran Hinds, and Marber directing.Amy's View by David Hare opens on 20th June, directed by Richard Eyre. Judi Dench plays West End actress Esme, who is prompted to reassess her life after a visit from her daughter Amy (Samantha Bond), the consequences of which spin out from 1979 to the present day.

The Royal Shakespeare Company reaches the end of one road at the Barbican next weekend, before its awfully big adventure of taking to the road for six months. The Barbican Theatre will be closed until September for refurbishment. The Royal Opera House will then present 3 productions, followed by a visit from the Ninagawa company. The RSC returns in November for 6 months with this year's Stratford repertoire. From May 1988 there will be a 22 week season of international dance, drama and opera.

Meanwhile, casting details are now available for the transfer to the Duchess Theatre of the RSC production of Peter Whelan's play The Herbal Bed. Stephen Boxer, Teresa Banham and Raymond Bowers, who reprise their original roles, are joined by Lorcan Cranitch, Robin Weaver and Barnaby Kaye. It is based on a real court case, concerning the alleged adultery of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and a married neighbour. The director is Michael Attenborough.

And finally. . . now we have to take the General Election seriously. The first night of Master Class at the Queen's Theatre has been postponed from 30th April until 6th May, by which time the dust should have settled.