News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd August 1997

The Old Vic is up for sale at a price of 7.5m. The Canadian owners, Ed Mervish and his son David, have conceded defeat in their struggle to make the historic theatre financially viable. Losses sustained by the current Peter Hall Company season have proved too great. Although artistically successful, the seven day/ten performance a week operation was perhaps just too ambitious, and the building will close at the end of the season on 6th December. Ed Mervish bought the building in a run down state in 1982 for 550,000, and spent 2.5m on restoring it. Since then he has lost a further 27m in various ventures attempting to find a new role for the theatre, which has seen very mixed fortunes in its 180 year history. It is generally felt that the Old Vic is too far off the beaten track to function as a normal commercial theatre. Producer Bill Kenwright, Peter Hall's previous collaborator, has expressed an interest in buying the building, but not at the current price. He is looking for a theatre to house a smaller Peter Hall repertoire season next year. The Theatre Royal Haymarket has been mentioned, but an offer of the Playhouse Theatre has been turned down. The new season would consist of Judi Dench in Eduardo de Fillipo's Philomena, Moliere's The Misanthrope, Shaw's Major Barbara, and another yet to be decided. Meanwhile Kenwright will take the current sellout production of Waiting For Godot with Alan Howard and Ben Kingsley to Broadway.

Casting has been announced for the new productions marking the Royal Shakespeare Company's return to the Barbican. Michael Sheen plays Henry V with Norman Rodway, Geoffrey Whitehead and Benny Young, directed by Ron Daniels; and Ray Fearon and Zoe Waites are Romeo And Juliet, directed by Michael Attenborough in The Pit.

As expected, Ian Rickson is to succeed Stephen Daldry as Artistic Director of the Royal Court. Currently Associate Director, he has been responsible for some of the Court's recent successes including Mojo. Mirroring the arrangement when Daldry replaced Max Stafford Clark, Rickson will work alongside Daldry as Joint Director from this autumn. He assumes sole responsibility when the company returns to its refurbished home in Sloane Square in the autumn of 1998.

The National Theatre, in association with the Theatre Museum, has produced a guide for people hoping to make a career in theatre, called Theatre Works. It costs 3.50 and is available from: The Education Department, Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX. Presumably it contains the most import piece of advice to those contemplating entering the theatrical profession - don't do it!

Michael Codron is to continue his long association with Alan Ayckbourn by bringingThings We Do For Love to the West End next March. Ayckbourn directs his latest work which premiered in Scarborough earlier this year, and has returned for a further season until 13th September.

Cast replacement fever reaches its logical conclusion, as Amanda Donohoe steps into Maria Aitken's place in Snoo Wilson's HRH even before rehearsals have started. The play postulates Edward and Mrs Simpson's involvement in a murder in the Bahamas during his period as governor, at a time when the gilt was allegedly wearing off their marriage. It is directed by Simon Callow and produced by Pericles Productions.