News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st June 2002

It's Official 1! As previously forecast here, the much touted production of Macbeth with Sean Bean, has been confirmed to open at the Albery Theatre on 14th November. Flavour of the moment director Edward Hall presides. After the Wars of the Roses in an abattoir, Birnham wood will probably be in a garden centre.

The Scottish Play will be preceded at the Albery by Rory Bremner And Friends, a stage version of Rory Bremner, John Bird and John Fortune's long running television series, from 30th September to 2nd November.

The Circus Space, the leading contemporary circus skills training centre, is offering Creation Studios Bursaries totalling 6,500 for professional circus performers to devise new work, with an emphasis on the process rather than realising a finished show. Access to space, specialist facilities and equipment, and technical advice will also be provided. The projects must take place between 1st August and 31st March, and the deadline for applications is 19th July. Further information can be found on the Circus Space web site via the link from the Training section of TheatreNet.

Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife, which ends its run at the Apollo Theatre on 29th June, is to move next door to the Lyric Theatre from 2nd July. Serena Evans, Lucy Fleming, Steven Pacey, Jenny Seagrove, Linda Thorson and Simon Williams star in the 1926 comedy, about an apparently devoted wife's attempts to prevent her family and friends from telling her that her seemingly devoted husband is having an affair with her best friend, while she gains financial and emotional independence. Edward Hall directs.

It's Official 2! As previously forecast here, Stephen Daldry will return to the Royal Court Theatre to direct the premiere of A Number, a play about human cloning by Caryl Churchill, opening on 18th September.

Shakespeare's Globe continues its programme of staged readings of rarely performed works by Shakespeare's contemporaries on Sunday afternoons. On 30th June: James Shirley's The Grateful Servant (1629) is a tragic-comedy which echoes Twelfth Night, with lovers disguised as servants delivering letters; 21st July: Anthony Munday's John a Kent and John a Cumber (1590) is A Midsummer Night's Dream relocated to Chester with Timothy Turnip standing in for Bottom; 4th August: John Lyly's Endymion: The Man In The Moon (1588) is an English take on the fable of Endymion - a youth who falls in love with the moon; 11th August: Thomas Heywod's Love's Mistress or The Queen's Masque (1634) is a low brow telling of the high brow allegory of Cupid and Psyche. Each reading is preceded at 12noon by an introduction to its background by Diana Devlin or Maggy Williams. Further information about these and the Globe's other extramural events can be found on the Shakespeare's Globe web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

Further news about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows: Jane Krakowski of Ally McBeal fame (though she has had a distinguished Broadway career) will make her British stage debut in the European premiere of David Lindsay-Abair's Off Broadway hit comedy Fuddy Meers, directed by Stephen Henry at the Pleasance. It's the story of an amnesiac who embarks on a wild journey of self discovery attempting to regain her memory. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are intending to appear in Anne Nelson's The Guys, the Off Broadway Bat Theatre Company production which is a 'post 11th September' conversation between a New York fire captain and a journalist. Various combinations of stars have appeared in the play since Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray opened in it at the downtown Manhattan venue in December.

Following the change of rules last year, the 30,000 Peggy Ramsay Foundation's Project Award is no longer restricted to staging an unproduced work. Production companies who have been in existence for over two years, and have already produced at least two new plays by UK writers, can submit any proposals for encouraging new writing, such as running workshops, appointing a literary manager or commissioning plays. The deadline for submissions is 29th July. In addition to the Project Award, the PRF made over 50 other grants supporting writers and new writing last year. Further information can be found on the new PRF web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will open the West End production of Mel Brooks The Producers in either December 2003 or January 2004; that Iain Glenn will join Glen Close in Trevor Nunn's long projected National Theatre production of Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire; that Neil LaBute has written an 11th September play, about the dilemma of a man having an affair with his boss as the World trade Centre is collapsing when his wife calls his mobile, which may premiere in London; and that Elaine Stritch will bring her autobiographical one woman show At Liberty to the Old Vic in October. The Rumour Machine grinds on.


The Royal Shakespeare Company's summer debate on the future of theatre in the television age produced an interesting suggestion: given the benefit that television derives from talent fostered on the stage, perhaps theatres should be entitled to a portion of the funds raised by the licence fee. It's an interesting idea in principle, that television should be required to pay its debt to the stage in cash. However, since it was voiced by Peter Bazalgette, the man who has done most to destroy the quality of British television by creating the 'makeover' and 'reality' genres, it is more likely that he was actually aiming to sap the financial strength of the BBC, rather than support the theatre. Nevertheless, the principal could be applied to the money the government raises by selling the commercial television franchises, which currently goes straight to the treasury. If a percentage of this was earmarked for performing arts, and kept separate from that given to the Arts Councils (so that it couldn't be substituted for existing funding) television could begin to pay its debt. The Theatre Investment Fund would be an ideal recipient, as it has the experience and structure, but what it lacks is money. The RSC released the results of a poll on the public's attitudes towards Shakespeare and theatre, which revealed that 34% of young people feel that Shakespeare is still relevant and 27% think that Shakespeare's plays have had an important impact on the English language. Surprisingly, more young people had been to see a play in the past year - 28% - than had been to a pop concert - 25%.