News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd March 2002

The National Theatre has confirmed details of its Transformation project, which will see a 1.5 million conversion of the Lyttelton Theatre and foyer into two smaller spaces opening in May. The five month season of new writing and experimental work at low prices, which is aimed at attracting the under 30s and non-conventional theatregoing audiences, will include 13 world premieres. The Lyttleton stage will become the Lyttelton Arena, a 650 seat in the round space in which no member of the audience will be will be more than 25 feet from the actors. The programme will comprise adaptations of Jeannette Winterson's PowerBook and John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany; Play Without Words, a dance theatre piece by Matthew Bourne; Aristophanes The Birds, in a new circus version by Sean O'Brien; and the Trestle Theatre Company production The Adventures Of The Stoneheads.

The foyer, currently used as an exhibition gallery, will become the Lyttelton Loft, an even more intimate space with 100 seats. It will stage new works running for two weeks, including Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads by Roy Williams The Shadow Of A Boy by Gary Owen, Sanctuary by Tanika Gupta, and Closing Time by Owen McCafferty. A new bar will feature an Internet cafe and a barbecue area, as well as cheaper beer and wine, and a late drinking licence. Mick Gordon has joined the National to programme the spaces. At the end of the season the Lyttelton will be returned to its current form for the much trailed production of Tennesee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire with Glenn Close, but if successful, the Transformation project will be repeated.

The 47th National Student Drama Festival, which takes place in Scarborough from 23rd to 30th March, comprises 18 productions, chosen from a record 134 entries. These embrace all styles and themes of student production, from devised work to modern classics, from musical theatre to new writing, and from physical theatre to the great classic drama of the past. In addition to performances, there will also be a programme of 170 workshops, masterclasses and other events, with Annie Castledine, Peter Hall, Willy Russell, Timothy West and Scarborough's Cultural Godfather Alan Ayckbourn. During the Festival, the town assumes the mantle of a mini Edinburgh Fringe, as a variety of venues become performance spaces. Further information can be found on the NSDF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

BBC Radio3 is to radically overhaul its speech output, committing one third of its airtime to new writing, and one third to adaptations of contemporary stage plays. In recent years its drama output has been almost exclusively classical, but now one play each month in its prestige Sunday Play slot will be new writing. Among its plans are an expansion of The Wire, its experimental drama series, which will feature new writing and short works. The Verb, a new series hosted by poet Ian MacMillan, covering a wide range of literary forms, including drama, song, screenplays and short stories, will aim to encourage new writers. This will be broadcast from festivals and cultural events around the country. The station is also in talks with organisations such as the London International Festival of Theatre about broadcasting their future productions.

The Almeida Theatre's production of Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid In Cheapside has launched a regional tour at the Oxford Playhouse. It is a bawdy Elizabethan London 'sex and the city' comedy that presents a portrait of a society driven by lust and greed, denied both flesh and money during Lent. The cast includes Sarah Belcher, Nicholas Boulton, Lucy Burden, Josh Cohen, Russell Layton, Charles Milham, Anna Niland, Cathy Owen, Catherine Russell, James Saxon, Graham Seed and Hannah Young, and the director is Ben Harrison.

Jackie Clune is to star in Tim Fountain's Jeffrey Bernard style one person show Julie Burchill Is Away, which will play a four week season at the Soho Theatre from 6th July. The piece charts the rise to fame of the Bristol born scribbler with the Pinky and Perky voice, encompassing her columns, books and ongoing acrimony with ex-husband Tony Parsons. It will be directed by Jonathan Lloyd, and produced by Kinderbunker and Fat Bloke Productions.

Timothy West will present this year's Stage Management Association Award during the annual Association of British Theatre Technicians Theatre Show at the Royal Horticultural Halls on 19th and 20th June. The deadline for nominations, which can be for work on one show, a season, or lifetime achievement, is 31st March. Further information and a nomination form can be found on the SMA web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

History is to be made when Les Miserables becomes the first full scale West End/Broadway musical production to be performed in China, as the American National Touring company plays the new Shanghai Grand Theatre from 22nd June to 7th July. Colm Wilkinson will return to the role of Jean Valjean for these dates, opposite Michael Macarthy, currently playing Javert in London, and other Broadway principals. The company will go on to in Seoul in South Korea from 12th July to 4th August, before returning to America. Performances will be in English with local surtitles. The Chinese government issued an invitation to the British Department of Culture, and government representatives from Britain and America will attend the first night. The BBC is to make a documentary about the event.

Grange Park Opera, one of the 'alternative Glyndebournes', will see a new auditorium in use for this year's season, running from 13th June to 12th July. It comprises Verdi's La Traviata, with Katarina Jovanavic, Alan Oke and George Mosley, directed by Aidan Lang; Benjamin Britten's The Turn Of The Screw, with Natasha Marsh, Janis Kelly, Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts and Megan Kelly, directed by Davis Fielding; and Cole Porter's Anything Goes, with Kim Kriswell, Graham Bickley and Linda Marlowe, directed by David Pountney. Further information can be found on the GPO web site via the link from the Dance, Opera, Orchestra & Choirs section of TheatreNet.

English National Ballet performs at Covent Garden for the first time on 31st May and 1st June, with a triple bill comprising Balanchine's Apollo and Who Cares?, and Double Concerto, a new ballet by Christopher Hampson, presented by Victor Hochhauser. ENB returns to the Royal Albert Hall with Derek Deane's arena staging of Swan Lake, featuring a company of 120 dancers, including 60 swans, plus acrobats, jugglers and fire eaters, from 12th to 22nd June. Raymond Gubbay presents the production.

And Finally . . . LG Electronics and Harrods are looking for four people to portray a high-tech family going about its interactive daily life in the window of the Knightsbridge store for a week in May (overnight stay not required). The family will be expected to use internet enabled LG products to shop, send e-mails, order food, record video messages, and tackle a daily challenge, for the entertainment of shoppers and passers by. Interested parties should visit for further information.