News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd May 2003

The Haymarket Theatre Leicester, one of the country's leading regional producing theatres, is to close at the end of the current season in July, in order to avert a financial crisis. This stems from the triple blow of Leicester City Council providing only standstill funding, the County Council withdrawing its 100,000 grant, and a technicians strike which cost 30,000 in lost ticket sales. It is suspected that the City Council's action is designed to exert pressure on the company to move from its current building, which is part of a shopping centre (and therefore valuable real estate) to a controversial new performing arts centre planned to open in 2006, but which may never be built. A proposed survival scheme sees performances resuming in 2004 at an unspecified location, with full operation only restarting in the new complex. So it seems that the Haymarket, which opened in 1973, with its excellent 750 seater main house and 120 seater studio, and its production facilities is doomed.

For the first time in its 27 year history, Nicholas Hawkesmoor's Christ Church will not be the centre of this year's Spitalfields Festival from 9th to 27th June, as its interior is undergoing major restoration work. Instead, the main homes will be Shoreditch Church, Wilton's Music Hall and Wesley's Chapel, with further events in Brady Arts & Community Centre, Dutch Church, and Bevis Marks Synagogue. The programme features a wide range of music from medieval to the newly commissioned. Performers include soloists such as Richard Rodney Bennett, Leslie Howard and Manickham Yogeswaran; instrumental groups from EnsembleBash and the Adelphi Saxophone Quartet to the Britten Sinfonia; and vocal ensembles from Midsummer Opera to Trinity Baroque and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. Once again, in addition to the lunchtime and evening concerts, there are a series of free early evening rush hour events featuring leading young performers and composers. All this plus fringe events, walks, talks and exhibitions about the Spitalfields area and the restoration of Christ Church, one of the great baroque churches of Europe. Full details can be found on the Spitalfields Festival web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, The Splinter Group's award winning Off Broadway show Shakespeare's R & J, seen recently at the Bath Shakespeare Festival is coming to the West End on 8th September at the Arts Theatre. Adapted and directed by Joe Calarco, it is the story of four pupils at a strict Catholic boys school who stumble across a forbidden copy of Shakespeare's text and act it out in secret. It will be presented by The Splinter Group, Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Edward Snape.

West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and Birmingham Repertory Theatre are to team up to mount two major productions this autumn, each originating a show that will play in both cities. Alan Bennett's The Madness Of George III, starring Michael Pennington and directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, will run at WYP from 24th September to 18th October, before transferring to Birmingham from 22nd October to 15th November. Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge, set in New York's Little Italy, directed by Toby Frow, will run at Birmingham Rep from 30th September until 18th October and then move to Leeds from 25th October to 22nd November.

The latest show to get the sing-a long-a treatment is The Wizard Of Oz, which will launch, not in a cosy cinema like the originator of the phenomenon the Prince Charles in London, but in the huge Gershwin Theatre on Broadway, from 12th to 29th June. A digitally restored and remastered copy of the 1939 film, starring Judy Garland, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr, will be shown in its original large screen format on a 23ft high by 32ft wide screen. The Gershwin will soon house a new live Oz musical Wicked.

The winter season at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester includes Twelfth Night, directed by Lucy Bailey, from 10th September to 25th October; JM Synge's rural comedy The Playboy Of The Western World, directed by Greg Hersov, from 29th October to 29th November; John Dighton's The Happiest Days Of Your Life, a comedy set in a boys boarding school after the Second World War, directed by Braham Murray, from 3rd December to 17th January; Jim Cartwright's The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, a tale of big ambitions and lost dreams, directed by Sarah Frankcom, from 21st January to 21st February; and David Harrower's Knives In Hens, about isolated lives and dangerous desires, directed by Joanna Combe, from 4th to 21st February.

Hampstead Theatre will stage the European premiere of Sunday Father, by Canadian writer Adam Pettle, directed by Rupert Goold, from 15th July to 9th August. It looks at the situation of a man whose parents were divorced, with the result that he saw his father only on Sundays, who finds himself caught up in a custody battle for his own child.

As part of a world tour covering 350 venues over five continents, an American production of Porgy And Bess, with music by George Gershwin, and words by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin, will tour throughout the UK in June and July. Samuel Clark Stevenson and Cedric Cannon alternate as Porgy, while Elizabeth Graham and La Rose Saxon share the role of Bess, with a cast drawn from some of America's leading opera companies, directed by Will Roberson.

The Theatre Managers Association is holding Putting The Jigsaw Together, a one-day seminar that explores how box office and marketing teams can work effectively together to get the most out of sales data, customer feedback, ticketing systems and training, combining their individual strengths to improve customer service and enhance sales. It will be staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds on 24th June, and the Senate House University of London on 11th July. Further information can be found on the TMA web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics has written the score for a stage musical of Barbarella, which will premiere in Vienna next spring; that Ben Elton's Rod Stewart back catalogue show Tonight's The Night will open at the Victoria Palace Theatre in October; and that Boogie Nights, the much toured disco music compilation show set in a 70s nightclub, will return to the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre in the autumn. The Rumour Machine grinds on.