News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd August 2003

The Society Of London Theatre's fifth Kids Week in the West End is now on, running until 31st August, designed to introduce young people to the theatregoing experience with thousands of free tickets and special events. Children between 5 and 16 can go free (when accompanied by a paying adult) to over 25 West End shows, with up to two additional children at half price. Over 35 accompanying events are taking place, including backstage tours, workshops, classes, storytelling and 'meet the cast' opportunities. There are also discounts at restaurants, and on travel and accommodation packages, and a free accompanying Kids Week Passport in which to collect a sticker or stamp at each show visited, and of course, autographs. Latest information can be found on the Kids Week web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, the National Theatre production of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers will transfer to the Piccadilly Theatre on 20th November, following a short tour. Simon Russell Beale will definitely continue in his role, but other principals in the current cast, Essie Davis, Jonathan Hyde and Nicholas Woodeson, are as yet unconfirmed. The director is David Leveaux. Possibly Stoppard's most interesting and successful play, it is a comedy of mental and physical gymnastics, featuring a moral philosopher and his musical comedy star wife.

At the National Theatre itself, Helen Mirren, Eve Best, Paul Hilton and Sean McGinley are to star in Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra, based on Aeschylus's Oresteia, directed by Howard Davies, opening on 27th November. Also, as previously forecast here, Matthew Bourne's narrative dance piece Play Without Words, inspired by the Joseph Losey-Harold Pinter film The Servant, about a struggle for power, territory and sexual domination in 1960s Chelsea, will return on 16th December; and Nicholas Wright's two part adaptation of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials children's trilogy, about a fantastical journey through parallel worlds, directed Nicholas Hytner, will open on 20th December, with a cast of over 30, including Anna Maxwell Martin, Dominic Cooper, Samuel Barnett, John Carlisle, Cecilia Noble, Danny Sapani, Russell Tovey and Ben Wright.

Just when you thought we were Dream'd out, here's another one - and this time they're dancing. Northern Ballet Theatre premieres a dance adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on 5th September, prior to its autumn tour. David Nixon directs and choreographs Shakespeare's story of quarrelling lovers and feuding fairies to music by Mendelssohn and Brahms. The production imagines the story as the romantic entanglements of a touring dance company travelling by sleeper train from London to Edinburgh (with strange things happening when they enter a tunnel) in a design style of late 1940s Dior New Look.

As part of Archive Awareness Month, the Theatre Museum is conducting tours of its archive at Blythe House near Olympia at 10am and 2.30pm on 5th September. The archive, which has been accumulating for nearly eighty years, covers all kinds of live performance, including circus, magic, opera, ballet, contemporary dance, music hall and rock and pop. The 45 minute tours will provide an opportunity see examples from the collection, look behind the scenes of the stores, find out what is collected, how it is looked after, and how it can be accessed. Highlights include material from Michael Redgrave, the Royal Court Theatre, and Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The Victoria & Albert Museum's archive of Art and Design, which is located in the same building, is also offering tours at 11am and 3.30pm on 5th September. The Theatre Museum archive at Blythe House can normally be visited by appointment on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 4.30pm and admission is free. Further information can be found on the AAM web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Shakespeare's Globe is to take part in what is believed to be the first live television broadcast of an entire performance of a play. Richard II will be relayed on BBC4 on 7th September - regardless of the weather - and with full digital trickery of different camera angles available. The Globe is also extending its performance schedule by two weeks, reprising last season's production of Twelfth Night from 2nd to 12th October, prior to embarking on American tour. This is an all male 'original practices' production, with the clothing, music, dance and settings of the first Globe, starring Mark Rylance, Liam Brennan, Michael Brown and Rhys Meredith, directed by Tim Carroll.

After Rat Pack the "musical" comes Rat Pack the play. Rat Pack Confidential, adapted by Paul Sirett from the group biography of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop by American journalist Shawn Levy, will open at the Whitehall Theatre on 18th September. The play explores the darker side of the group's activities, including their connections with the Kennedy family and the Mafia, as well as a swirl of film stars, drink and drugs. The premiere production was at Nottingham Playhouse last year, where it returns from 21st to 30th August, prior to its West End transfer. The cast comprises Richard Shelton, Alex Giannini, Paul Sharma, Robin Kingsland and Kevin Colson, plus a live band playing the songs with which the group were associated. It is directed Giles Croft, with choreography by Sam Spencer Lane, and presented by Ed Crozier and Matthew Gale, in a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse and the Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Anne Charleston, Michele Dotrice, Shirley Anne Field and Edward Woodward are to star in Ivan Menchell's The Cemetery Club, directed by Chris Colby, which starts a regional tour at the Theatre Royal Lincoln on 1st September. The comedy, which has already toured extensively, tells the story of three golden girl widows who meet each year at their husbands' gravesides, and how one man changed the lives.

There will be a new Broadway production of the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musical The Pajama Game next spring, featuring a revised book by Peter Ackerman, drawing on the original by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, and a new song by Adler. Choreographer Kathleen Marshall will make her directorial debut on the project.

Following last year's genre fusing production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, director Jonathan Best, conductor Richard Hickox and the City of London Sinfonia are joining forces again for a unique live music presentation of Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, which tells the story of Mozart's life and suspicious death and court composer Antonio Salieri's consuming jealousy, at the Barbican Hall on 12th November.