News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st December 2001

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced its plans for next spring. Three separate ensemble companies will play in repertoire simultaneously in the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres in Stratford, and in London at the Roundhouse. The RST company will perform Antony and Cleopatra, starring Stuart Wilson and Sinead Cusack, directed by Michael Attenborough, and Much Ado About Nothing, starring Harriet Walter and Nicholas Le Provost, directed by Gregory Doran, from April to July. The Swan company will perform Shakespeare's(?) Edward III, directed by Edward Hall; Eastward Ho! by George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston, directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace; Philip Massinger's The Roman Actor, directed by David Hunt; John Fletcher's The Island Princess, directed by Gregory Doran; and The Malcontent by John Webster and John Marston, directed by Dominic Cook, from April to July. The Roundhouse company will perform promenade productions of The Winter's Tale, directed by Matthew Warchus, The Tempest directed by Michael Boyd, and Pericles directed by Adrian Noble, from March to July.

Meanwhile a company called Will Power Holdings has applied to Stratford-upon-Avon council for planning permission to construct a 30 acre theme park called Shakespeare's World on one of two possible sites. Although long in the planning, this move is obviously provoked by Adrian Noble's recently announced plans to do something similar on the site of the current Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The project would involve the creation of a full scale Elizabethan street, populated by actors in period garb (which is more than can be said for many recent RSC productions). It is not known if the scheme includes a playhouse.

The Times Square Theater and Entertainment Center, a new complex for Off and Off-Off Broadway productions, located in the heart of the theatre district on 8th Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, will open on 1st January. In addition to performance spaces, it will house rehearsal halls, screening rooms, an art gallery, a gift shop, a bar, a restaurant and a late night cabaret club, plus the Alternative Broadway Epicenter and the Alternative Broadway Media Wall, offering comprehensive listings and information on about 200 Off and Off-Off Broadway shows. From 10th January, No Live Girls: A Times Square Festival will feature plays and performances about Times Square.

Following a run at Wilton's Music Hall in June this year, The Mysteries, a South African interpretation of the Chester Mystery Plays, will start a world tour with a season at the Queen's Theatre, opening on 26th February. A multiracial cast of 40, employing 7 different languages, performs the Spier Festival Company production, which combines African and European traditions.

The Ambassador Theatre Group, the second largest London theatre chain, has purchased the Fortune Theatre, bringing its total of venues to ten, thus equalling the current number one, Really Useful Theatres. Both groups will lose control of some their existing theatres as leases come to an end over the next few years. The 432 seater Fortune, designed by Ernest Schaufelberg in art deco style, with its windows giving a hint of the medieval, and the facade surmounted by a statue of the goddess Fortune, opened on 8th November 1924. It was the first theatre built in the West End after the First World War and marked a complete break in architectural style.

Next year's Shakespeare's Globe season, which will run from 11th May to 29th September will comprise: Twelfth Night, directed by Tim Carroll, in an 'original practices' production, remaining faithful to 17th century period clothing, setting and music; A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Mike Alfreds, in a 'modern practices' production in contemporary style; and The Golden Ass, a new comedy written for the Globe by Peter Oswald, inspired by Lucius Apuleius tale The Golden Ass, which provided Shakespeare with the source for the Bottom/Titania thread in the Dream.

Leading touring producers are urging the Arts Council of England to establish a fund to invest in commercial productions visiting regional receiving theatres, comparable to the way it funds producing theatres. The idea is for something similar to the way the Film Board has invested in film production (although hopefully establishing a better track record). This could be done straightforwardly by expanding the role of the existing Theatre Investment Fund, the registered charity that tops up investment in commercial productions. As with the TIF, any profits from investing in regional touring productions would be returned to the fund to enhance its resources. The ACE appears unenthusiastic at present.

The Royal Court Theatre's winter season, following Peter Gill's new play The York Realist, will continue with Nightsongs by Jon Fosse, translated by Gregory Motton, about the effect having a baby has on a couple's relationship, directed by Katie Mitchell, from 21st February to 23rd March; and Face To The Wall by Martin Crimp, also directed by Katie Mitchell, late evenings from 12th to 23rd March - free to ticket holders of Nightsongs.

The closing date for submissions for The Global Search For New Musicals, the finalists of which will be showcased during the International Festival of Musical Theatre to be held in Cardiff next year, is 14th January. Entries are welcomed from all countries and at all levels from professionals to first time writers, the only stipulation being that shows must not have been previously professionally produced. A team of 125 professional practitioners will consider the submissions. Further information can be found on the IFMT web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Bridewell Theatre is presenting two anthology shows this winter. On The Wings Of A Dream, a programme of song and poetry exploring the world of dreams and fantasy, including works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cy Coleman, Leonard Bernstein and Cole Porter, runs from 8th to 26th January. It features Harry Burton, Jon-Paul Hevey, Shona Lindsay and Elizabeth Renihan, plus a surprise celebrity guest at each performance, and is directed by Carol Metcalfe and Clive Paget. There's Always A Woman, a compilation examining the role of women in the work of Stephen Sondheim, devised and directed by Clive Paget, runs from 29th January to 9th February.

Further post 11th September news from New York again shows Broadway thinking on a bigger scale than the West End. The New York City Mayor's office and the League of American Theatres and Producers have collaborated to buy 14,000 tickets to Broadway shows, which have been given away free to rescue workers and the families of victims of the World Trade Center collapse. Tickets that usually sold for $65 to $90 were purchased for $50 by the city at a total cost of $700,000. A second tranche of 15,000 tickets, involving a further $750,000 investment, has been purchased for performances in the new year. Shoppers who spend at least $500 in New York stores, restaurants and cultural institutions between 1st and 15th January (and have the receipts to prove it) will receive a free pair of tickets. A third tranche of 20,000 tickets to be purchased for $1 million will follow, and it is hoped that the $2.5 million cost of the scheme will generate $7.5m to $12 million in consumer spending in Manhattan. The Rumour Machine grinds on.