News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 22nd September 2000

The 16th Vivian Ellis Prize Gala Showcase at the London Palladium produced an outstanding clutch of contenders for its expanded list of prizes, all of which were original stories. Going Once!, about three chancers running a confidence trick selling forged paintings through their auction house, book, music and lyrics by 19 year old Leon Parris, was the hit of the day, winning the Most Promising Musical, Mercury Development, Most Promising Young Writer, and Warner Chappell awards. Mind (The Gap), a tale set on the Underground, book, music and lyrics by Martin Seager took the Lyricist award. Killing Time, a Berkoffesque "domestic opera", book, music and lyrics by Christopher Littlewood won the Bookwriter award. Best Friends And Butterflies, the story of the evolving friendship of two caterpillars, book, music and lyrics by Elliot Davis and Sam Brookes took the Composer and Most Promising Work For Young People awards. Quote of the day from Cameron Mackintosh as he presented the Development award: "I wish they'd had this when I was doing Martin Guerre."

New Musicals Alliance in association with FACADE, is repeating its "Month Of Sundays" course for writers in the Craft Of Musical Theatre Writing on 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th November at Goldsmith's College. It features seminars with top writers, composers and directors, including Anthony Drewe, Mary Stewart-David, Chris Walker, Stuart Pedlar and Jeremy Sams, and the opportunity for participants to collaborate on projects with different writing partners. The course is ideal for writers from the pop, classical and light entertainment fields wishing to learn about musical theatre. For details contact Jeremy Peyton Jones at Goldsmith's on 020 7919 7229 or email

The Royal Shakespeare Company has revealed full details of its London winter season, in addition to the previously mentioned new productions of The Tempest and The Duchess Of Malfi. The Barbican Theatre will see transfers from Stratford of The Comedy Of Errors, The Rivals , Romeo And Juliet and the first tranche of This England - The Histories: Richard II, Henry IV 1 & 2, and Henry V. The Pit will house transfers from Stratford of As You Like It, La Lupa and Back To Methuselah, followed by This Other Eden - a series of new plays looking at England from a modern historical perspective to contrast with the This England project. It comprises the world premieres of Luminosity by Nick Stafford, looking at England's colonial heritage through the story of a South African mining family; and Loveplay by Moira Buffini, following the sexual transactions that occur on the same London site over a period of 2000 years. There will also be workshops of plays by Biyi Bandele, about several generations of black experience in modern England; Paul Greengrass and Simon Reade, examining the effects of the Official Secrets Act; and David Farr, whose monologue reveals Joan of Arc's thoughts about England as she faces death. At the Young Vic, Richard III will join the previously mentioned transfer of Henry VI 1,2 & 3.

Twenty years on from its creation, the People Show Cabaret is back, still with the premise of a band trying to play a successful rendition of Glen Miller's In The Mood, thwarted by petty rivalry, battling egos and mutual disrespect. The original performers, George Khan, Mark Long, Chahine Yavroyan and Emil Wolk, are recreating and updating their show in collaboration with Chris Monks. The resulting chaos, which previously played over eighty venues world wide, will relaunch at the People Show Studios from 12th to 28th October, before transferring to the Royal Exchange Manchester Studio.

English National Opera has confirmed that it will remain at the London Coliseum, and launched a 30m four year refurbishment programme. Work started during the recent summer break, with a renewed stage floor, acoustic improvements and the replacement of the air conditioning system. The next three summers will see the balcony entrance moved to the main foyer, opening up of the stalls promenade, original Frank Matcham features and decorative scheme restored, and the reseating of the auditorium. The work will be completed to coincide with the theatre's centenary in 2004.

Meanwhile English National Ballet has announced this year's Christmas season at the Coliseum. Derek Deane's The Nutcracker opens on 19th December with Viviana Durante as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Tetsuya Kumakawa as her Prince. It will be joined by Derek Deane's Swan Lake from 9th to 20th January, with a mixed programme comprising Les Sylphides, Voluntaries and Etudes on 15th and 17th January. Once again it will be head to head (or toe to toe) as the Royal Ballet will be performing Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright's The Nutcracker at Covent Garden between 22nd December and 6th January.

Pilot Theatre Company is currently presenting the world stage premiere of SE Hinton's cult novel Rumblefish at the Theatre Royal York until 7th October. Rusty James and his brother, the Motorcycle Boy, tell the story of two brothers, two Siamese fish fighting their own reflection, with no way out - except that one must die so that the other can live. Marcus Romer has adapted and directs.

Frankie & Tommy, which is based on Tommy Cooper's attempts to entertain the troops in Egypt in 1946, opens at the Lyric Studio Hammersmith on 20th November. The tall comic with a penchant for dubious magic forms an ill-fated double act with Frankie Lyons, a short, down-to-earth comic. The play is written by Frankie's son Garry Lyons, and features Christopher Brand and Ben Fox. It is presented by Roland Jones Productions.

Shakespeare & Company, a group based in Lennox Massachusetts, is planning to build a replica of The Rose theatre, the first theatre to be built in London's Bankside in 1587. It is the brainchild of Tina Packer, S&C's British born artistic director, who founded the company in 1978. She is consulting with a number of people in London who were involved with the excavation of the original Rose, and the construction of the new Shakespeare's Globe. Although the original Rose shared the same configuration as the original Globe, it had about half the capacity, and the new plans reflect this, with 700 to 800 seats, compared to 1500 in the new Globe. The company already possesses two main stages (one indoors and one out) and three studio spaces (two indoors and one out) on which they play a repertoire of both Shakespeare and contemporary drama.

Unicorn Children's Theatre is presenting a season at the Pleasance London with two new productions. Tom's Midnight Garden adapted by David Wood from the book by Philippa Pearce, directed by Tony Graham plays from 30th September to 4th November. Firebird, the Russian legend in a new version by Susanna Steele, directed by Emily Gray, runs from 25th November to 12th January. Both shows use live music, movement and sound to create the fantastic journeys of their central characters.

Scottish Ballet will premiere Aladdin, its first new full length ballet for seven years, on 20th December at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, prior to a 27 date tour. Robert Cohan will choreograph to a specially commissioned score by Carl Davis. The ballet will follow the One Thousand and One Nights fable of the young man and his magic lamp, with special effects, including a genie and a flying carpet, created by illusionist Paul Kieve.

And Finally . . . Writer and director Debbie Isitt, who recently staged an ensemble production of The Hundred And One Dalmations at the Belgrade Coventry, using physical theatre, film and special effects, has more ambitious plans for her next show. She wants to stage King Kong, possibly using the spire of Coventry Cathedral with real helicopters for the finale. Anyone with 500,000 spare to pay for it - do get in touch.