News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st December 2007

Following last week's news that the futures of the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and the National Student Drama Festival were in jeopardy because Arts Council England is withdrawing their grants, it has now been revealed that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Arts Council England has conducted a major reappraisal of its clients and cut funding to 195 organisations - approximately 20% of the total - in order to offer more generous grants to those that remain. This completely wrongheaded plan is likely to result in the demise of many of the companies affected. Among the other major regional losers are the Bristol Old Vic and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, and in London, the London Bubble Theatre Company and the Drill Hall, which has already cancelled all productions and made its staff redundant. It is now more important than ever that concerned theatergoers protest against these cuts to Arts Council England as soon as possible. The Arts Council England web site can be found via the link form Organisations in the Links section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Jean Anouilh's Ring Round The Moon, translated by Christopher Fry, with Angela Thorne, Belinda Lang, Peter Eyre, John Ramm, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, Joanna David, Andrew Havill, Fiona Button and JJ Field, directed by Sean Mathias, will open at the Playhouse Theatre on 19th February. The broad comedy is set during a ball at a French chateau in the 1950s, and is the tale of twin brothers (one good, one bad), an heiress who's engaged to one but in love with the other, a ballet dancer embroiled in a plot hatched by the bad one, and their wily old aunt.

The Young Vic's presentation of the South African company Isango/Portobello production of Mozart's The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo) a capella (but with percussion), adapted and directed by Mark Dornford-May, will transfer to the Duke of York's Theatre on 11th February. The opera has been re-imagined in a contemporary South African township setting.

Theatre Delicatessen, a new company committed to performing in new and unusual spaces, will stage a site specific production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Frances Loy, in a disused and gutted space below 295 Regent Street, from 1st February to 2nd March. The company will comprise Giovanni Bienne, Olivia Brown, Josh Cass, Dan Crow, Robert Curtis, Holly Goss, Mark Knightly, Nigel Mattison, Esther McAuley, Matthew Pearson, Bethany Webb and Jennifer Milor Wren.

The spring season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds will include in the Quarry Theatre: The Grouch, Ranjit Bolt's new adaptation of Moliere's The Misanthrope, in which a journalist, drowning in a social whirl of flattery, seeks to secure the affections of the spoiled and feckless love of his life, directed by Sarah Esdaile, from 20th January; Roy Smiles's Year Of The Rat, set on a remote Scottish island, where George Orwell is attempting to finish writing 1984, while seducing Sonia Brownell, and defending her from the attentions of Cyril Connolly, directed by Alan Strachan, opening on 12th March; Tom Stoppard's Hapgood, which combines a female spymaster's search for the source of a leak and quantum mechanics, with Josie Lawrence, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, opening on 5th May; Colin Teevan's Monkey, a physical and visual theatre family show based on the Chinese legend Journey To The West, directed by Dominic Leclerc, from 19th June; and in The Courtyard Theatre: Steve Waters's Fast Labour, examining the life of an Eastern European asylum seeker in Britain, directed by Ian Brown, opening on 23rd April.

On The Casting Couch: Anton Lesser and Tom Riley will join Indira Varma in The Vertical Hour, opening at Royal Court Theatre on 22nd January; Simon Russell Beale will be joined by Clare Higgins, Hayley Atwell and Paul Ready in Major Barbara, opening at the National Theatre on 4th March; and Jill Paice, Madeleine Worrall and Edward Baker-Duly will lead the cast in Gone With The Wind, opening at the New London Theatre on 22nd April.

The London Theatre Guide, recently published by Metro Publications, not only answers all the questions a first time visitor asks, but can also surprise the regular theatregoer with useful information. A virtual compendium, it is a complete guide to the London theatregoing experience, with histories and seating plans of the theatres, how to book, where to sit, and even where to eat and drink before or afterwards - plus a host of inside information about people, places and events of interest to theatregoers in a comprehensive reference section. The new and updated second edition even includes an Entertainment And Events For Free Guide.

Productions at the Everyman and Playhouse Theatres in Liverpool next year will include: Tracy Ann Oberman and Diane Samuels's 3 Sisters On Hope Street, which relocates the story of Chekhov's Three Sisters among a Jewish family in Liverpool in 1946, with Ben Caplan, Anna Francolini, Elliot Levey, Jennie Stoller and Philip Voss, directed by Lindsay Posner, opening on 30th January, a co-production with Hampstead Theatre; Samuel Beckett's Endgame, (the one with the blind man in the wheelchair and his parents in dustbins) with Matthew Kelly and his son Matthew Rixon, directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace, opening on 16th April; Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi, a musical taking an irreverent look at the city's most famous hotel in its 1930s heyday, written and directed by Phil Willmott, opening in June; Mark Davies Markham's Eric's, a musical celebrating the iconic club of the late 70s and early 80s, opening in September; and Pete Postlethwaite in King Lear, directed by Rupert Goold, opening in October, a co-production with Headlong Theatre.

The Opera On The Run production of The Perfect Picnic, written and directed by Ian Bloomfield and Tim Armstrong-Taylor, music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Cheryl Enever, Lynn Marie Boudreau, Tim Armstrong-Taylor, Ian Bloomfield and Clare Kinson, will play at the Jermyn Street Theatre from 15th January to 2nd February. The show combines theatre and opera in a quintessentially English tale of love and misunderstanding at a summer's opera gala in a park, which is resolved in the picnic interval.

Star Quality: Aspects Of Noel Coward, an exhibition at the National Theatre from 21st January to 29th March, will celebrate the life and work of Noel Coward through period photographs, letters and memorabilia. The display emphasises the breadth of Coward's talent as a playwright, composer, actor, cabaret artist and painter. It also highlights his gift for making lifelong friends, with special features on his relationship with Laurence Olivier and theatre historians Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, to whom he gave many personal items, including an iconic silk dressing gown, on public view for the first time.

Mark Dooley's The Conservatory, about a year of life changing domestic dramas, with Tony Bell, Tina Gray, Cate Hamer, Sarah Howarth and Jamie Samuel, directed by Charlotte Gwinner, will open at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington on 15th January.

From next year, ITV will reclaim from Channel 4 sponsorship of the Theatre Director Scheme, originally set up by ITV companies in 1960. The scheme offers a 12 month programme for anyone over the age of 20 who wishes to make a career as a theatre director. Three candidates are awarded bursaries of 12,000, and attachments at theatres, at the end of which they will direct a production of their own, with funding of 5,000 provided. Previous theatres participating in the scheme include the Royal Court, the Young Vic, Bristol Old Vic, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and Sheffield Theatres, while Michael Boyd, Ken Loach, Trevor Nunn and Tim Supple are among those directors who have benefited from it.