News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd April 2004

The Old Vic Theatre Company has announced its first season under the artistic directorship of Kevin Spacey, comprising four productions, all London premieres. The season opens with Cloaca, by Dutch writer Maria Goos, the story of four lifelong friends reunited in middle age, an examination of aspiration and compromise, with Hugh Bonneville, Neil Pearson, Stephen Tompkinson and Ingeborga Dapkunaite, directed by Spacey, running from 16th September to 11th December. Aladdin, a traditional pantomime by Bille Brown, starring Ian McKellen as Widow Twankee, directed Sean Mathias, will play from 17th December to 22nd January. Dennis MacIntyre's National Anthems, a critique of suburban values and a parable about the American dream, featuring Spacey, directed by David Grindley, will run from 1st February to 23rd April. The season concludes with Spacey in Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story, the Broadway comedy that became the musical High Society, from 3rd May to 23rd July, but the speculation about the female lead and director has yet to be resolved. This will be a co-produced with Triumph Entertainment.

Barbara Cook returns to London with her latest one woman show, Barbara Cook's Broadway, at the Gielgud Theatre, from 11th to 29th May. As always, Cook is accompanied by her musical director Wally Harper, in the show that has just played at Lincoln Center in New York. The season is presented by Bill Kenwright.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced details of its first New Work Festival, led by Dominic Cooke, which takes place in Stratford between 29th September and 17th October, and sees the reopening of its third performance space, The Other Place. There will be world premieres of: Zinnie Harris's Midwinter, a tale of identity, love and war in a world overrun with conflict, with Ruth Gemmell, Pal Aron, Sean Hannaway and John Normington; Joanna Laurens's Poor Beck, a retelling of Ovid's story of Myrrah, with Greg Hicks, Louise Bangay, Sian Brooke and Louis Hilyer; Head/Case, the final part of Ron Hutchinson's trilogy examining the psyche of the Northern Irish, directed by Caroline Hunt; and Corin Redgrave in Tynan, by Richard Nelson with Colin Chambers, a one man show based on the diaries of the critic Kenneth Tynan. In addition there will be performances of works in progress, including: a devised piece on the life of Pontius Pilate with Toby Stephens and Greg Hicks, directed by Michael Boyd; and Shock And Awe, by Lee Hall, about the life of British soldiers in Iraq; rehearsed readings, including Shakespeare's epic poem Venus And Adonis; and community and educational projects. The New Work Festival will transfer to London with the main repertoire productions next spring.

The Soho Theatre is welcoming submissions of full length plays for the Verity Bargate Award, an biennial playwriting competition for British writers with less than three professional productions to their credit. The first prize has been more than doubled to 3,500, representing a professional production by the Soho Theatre Company. The deadline for the arrival of scripts is 13th August. Further information can be found on the Soho Theatre web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner is the only person from the theatre to be included in the annual Time 100 - Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Time says that the National is now the theatre company that "sets the pace in Britain".

The Clod Ensemble production of Greed, with Marcello Magni and Sarah Cameron, accompanied by John Paul Gandy, directed by Suzy Willson, plays at the Battersea Arts Centre from 17th June to 11 the July. The show was inspired by Eric von Stroheim's 1924 film, but is an original contemporary story about marriage and dentistry - the business of love and the love of business. It is co-written by John Binias and the company, with an original score by Paul Clark, and is presented in silent film style, with projected intertitles.

Two further solo shows will play the Palace Theatre in the next few weeks. Dylan Moran Moran brings his jaded view of life to the West End between 17th and 23rd May, and Ricky Gervais will follow with Politics from 31st May to 6th June.

Times Square, the centre of New York's Theatreland, has held a ceremony to mark the centenary of its naming, starting a nine month series of events that will culminate in the 100th New Year's Eve celebration on 31st December. The junction of Broadway and 7th Avenue, originally Long Acre Square, took its current name when the New York Times moved into the area. The clock below the globe on top of 1501 Broadway at the lower end of the Square, which has stars instead of numerals, gives a warning chime of "Give My Regards To Broadway" prior to curtain time at 7.45pm each evening, and at 1.45pm on matinee days. Times Square is where America traditionally celebrates New Year, with events including a live show with music, pyrotechnics and 2 tons of confetti, culminating in a 6ft crystal, mirror and light ball descending the 77ft flagpole above One Times Square. Further information about Times Square and Broadway theatre - including a live web cam - can be found in the New York section of TheatreNet.

The first UK tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express will open on 1st November at the Opera House Manchester. The new production will be based on the Las Vegas version, which used '3D technology' (whatever that is). It will be produced by David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment in association with the Really Useful Group.

The Rumour Machine says: that the National Theatre production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman will open on Broadway in October; that Lorna Luft will bring Songs My Mother Taught Me, the tribute show to her mother Judy Garland, to the Duke of York's Theatre in June; that Trevor Nunn will direct Glenn Close in A Little Night Music next year; and that Melanie Griffith, who starred in Chicago on Broadway, may join the London cast next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . "Doubling roles has long been standard casting practice, but to judge from the photograph on the current poster for Anything Goes, there are some members of the chorus who not only play two parts, but do so simultaneously. What talent!" - A K Bennett-Hunter. A musical not quite as lavish as the producers would have us believe.