News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st May 1999

A new play by Peter Barnes is coming to the London. Dreaming opens at the Queens Theatre on 15th June for a limited run until 17th July. Set during the Wars of the Roses, it focuses on a group trying to pursue their dreams against the wishes of Richard of Gloucester, the future King. The play received its world premiere at Royal Exchange Manchester in April. It is directed by Matthew Lloyd, and presented by Laurie Mansfield. Eddie Izzard opens at the Queens in the previously mentioned production of Lenny on 9th August, produced by PW Productions and Majellan Entertainment.

John Barton, academic heart of the Royal Shakespeare Company for forty years, has completed his magnum opus, Tantalus. An epic ten play cycle about the Trojan War, it can be played over three evenings of five hours each, or two whole days, and has taken Barton twenty years to write. Unfortunately, during that period, resources of the major British theatre companies have been reduced to the point that it is unlikely that anyone in will be able to stage it alone. A founder member of the RSC, Barton first came to prominence in the reshaping of the plays which made up the Wars Of The Roses history cycle in 1964. So adept is he at writing "Shakespeare", that it takes strenuous research to be able to tell the difference. Peter Hall will direct when a production can be mounted. If there was an obvious millennial project worthy of finance, this is it - but as yet no funding body has been forthcoming.

The Oxford Stage Company is taking time out from its season at the Whitehall Theatre. During this period it will host the Straydogs production of Jean Anouilh's Eurydice, seen at Battersea Arts Centre last November, opening on 12th July. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is re-imagined as a musician and an actress falling in love at a railway station, with the man demanding the total damaging truth about the woman's past. Simon Godwin directs Peter Meyer's translation.

The Theatrical Management Association has revealed startling audience figures for last year. Over 30 million visits were made to theatres, once again outstripping Football League match attendances. The regional theatre operators' organisation states that its members staged 23,276 performances, earning 105.6m in ticket revenue, and returning 15.8m to the treasury in VAT. Thus the industry is more important, cheaper, and more accessible than the picture which is generally painted.

Liz Lockhead's Perfect Days has found a West End home. Seen at the Traverse Theatre in last year's Edinburgh Festival, and then at Hampstead Theatre in January, this Glaswegian comedy opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on 21st June. Siobhan Redmond reprises her highly feted performance of a 39 year old hairdresser longing for a child, who finds that her estranged husband is having a baby with a much younger woman. It is directed by John Tiffany, and produced by the Peter Wolf Theatre Trust and Bill Freedman.

The King's Head Theatre is heading for the record books again. A cast of 32 will feature in a revival of Vivian Ellis and A P Herbert's Bless The Bride, playing from 3rd June to 11th July. It's hard to believe that 32 people could even get on to the stage at the King's Head, let alone move about - presumably the curtain calls will have to be taken in shifts, with a strict one way traffic system. Obviously the dressing room facilities will be alfresco. American lyricist and director Martin Charnin wields the megaphone.

Boyband is confirmed for the Gielgud Theatre, opening on 8th June. The previously mentioned "musical" by Peter Quilter, which charts the rise of a group from local hall to Wembley Stadium, achieves similarly astronomical (and unlikely) promotion, from Derby Playhouse to the West End. Peter Rowe directs, and the producers are PW Productions and Adam Spiegel Productions. It will be followed at the Gielgud by the Almeida Theatre's new West End programme in September.

The Bridewell Theatre is presenting British premiere of another American musical. Floyd Collins, with book by Tina Landau and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel (grandson of Richard Rodgers) plays from 8th to 31st July. It is based on a true story from Kentucky in 1925, when Collins got his foot stuck in an underground cave, and sparked the first American media circus. Clive Pagett directs.

Producer Michael Codron has firmed up his Autumn plans for the West End. Ronald Harwood's Quartet opens at the Albery Theatre on 7th September. It features Stephanie Cole, Alec McCowen, Donald Sinden and Angela Thorne, as residents of a home for retired opera singers and musicians, and is directed by Christopher Morahan. Alan Ayckbourn's Comic Potential opens at the Lyric Theatre on 13th October. It explores Ayckbourn's technophobia, imagining the near future when television soap opera actors have been replaced by android "actoids". It premiered in Scarborough last Autumn.

The Rumour Machine says: that there may be changes in personnel in Simon Callow's eccentrically cast Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of The Pajama Game between the tour date in Toronto, and its West End arrival in September; and that following the "success" of Dr Dolittle, Leslie Bricusse is now working on a musical about Noah's Ark, once again relying heavily on the services of Jim Henson's Creature Shop to provide most of the cast - and who better to play Noah and wife than Andi Peters and Zoe Ball? Former investors in Children Of Eden read and weep. The Rumour Machine grinds on.