News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd June 2000

Michael Kaiser has put an end to speculation and confirmed that he will leave his job as executive director of the Royal Opera House next June. Since his arrival from the American Ballet Theatre in November 1998 he has driven through the redevelopment of the ROH which defeated his two short lived predecessors Genista Mackintosh and Mary Allen. Kaiser has successfully established his "on time, on budget and on stage" regime, sweeping away restrictive practices, shaking up the opera and ballet boards and helping to bring an end to Covent Garden's reputation as holder of the third theatrical mask (you know: comedy, tragedy and snobbery). He has however found the constant sniping of the press, and difficult relations with some of the board members (particularly the chairman Colin Southgate) have soured the experience for him, and so he will return to America.

HeadsUp, the Australian arts festival, is presenting a ten day programme of contemporary arts events in London from 30th June to 9th July. It includes music ranging from the Australian Art Orchestra jazz ensemble to the contemporary fine music programme Throb: Indigenous theatre productions Stolen, White Baptist Abba Fan and Box the Pony; contemporary dance company Chunky Move; and a visual arts programme with Polly Borland's exhibition of 50 Australians. Further information from the HeadsUp web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The previously mentioned production of God Only Knows, the new play by Hugh Whitemore starring Derek Jacobi, will open at Malvern Theatre on 31st August and then tour before arriving in the West End in October. It is a kind of thriller set in Italy, with Jacobi playing a fugitive who claims to know dangerous information about the Vatican (could it be the definitive account of events which led up to the headline "Pope Dies Again"?) Anthony Page directs and the producer is Duncan Weldon.

Bristol Old Vic has announced its autumn season. It comprises: Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire with Tara Fitzgerald and John Sharian, directed by Andy Hay, from 15th September to 14th October; Croak, Croak, Croak, a double bill by Peter Tinniswood - The Scan in which a man goes into his local hospital for a check-up and finds it's no ordinary clinic, and The Voice Boxer about a man who discovers his voice has developed a life of its own and started to travel the worl - starring Derek Griffiths and directed by Gareth Machin, from 4th to 28th October; and Bill Wallis as King Lear directed by Jan Sargent 20th October to 14th November.

The Royal Military Tattoo 2000 running from 9th to 15th July will be the most spectacular event to be staged on Horse Guards Parade, and is being styled military theatre. The two hour show will feature more than 1800 performers, including over 700 musicians, more than 180 horses, two of the largest mobile video screens in the world, lasers, fireworks, son et lumiere presentations, live parachute action, and overflights by historic and contemporary aircraft. These resources will used to tell the story of 1000 years of British military history, including re-enactments of Agincourt, the Civil War, Waterloo and the Charge of the Light Brigade. The son et lumiere will feature amongst others Judi Dench as Elizabeth I, Robert Hardy as Winston Churchill and Prunella Scales as Queen Victoria.

David Aukin, whose career has spanned regional theatre, the National Theatre and Channel 4, is to join Act Productions as an associate. Originally the production arm of Associated Capital Theatres, Act Productions continues post-takeover as part of the Ambassador Theatre Group. Artistic director Brigid Lamour and director of production Nick Salmon also remain in post. Future West End ventures include The Mystery Of Charles Dickens starring Simon Callow, which toured recently and should arrive in the autumn; In Flame, co-produced with another new Act associate Matthew Byam Shaw at the New Ambassadors; and Michael Frayn's Noises Off, starring Patricia Hodge and directed by Jeremy Sams, which will open at the National Theatre in October and then tour in the spring, prior to a West End transfer.

The Belgrade Theatre Coventry, in a collaboration with the Polish theatre company Teatr Biuro Podrozy and local professional and community actors and musicians, is presenting The Millennium Mysteries from 18th July to 5th August. It will be a fusion of the original Coventry Mystery Plays and contemporary street theatre, with 100 performers, including stilt walkers and fire eaters. The event will consist of processions and performances around the city culminating in a performance in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral.

The Performing Right Society Foundation has announced its first round of awards, ranging from 500 to 12,000, to eighty eight ensembles, festivals and organisations across the UK, representing many different musical genres. Almost 300,000 has been distributed to groups including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Sharp Edge ensemble, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Manchester Jazz Festival, Aldeburgh Productions, Leeds Centre for Indian Music and Dance, and the Society for the Promotion of New Music. The foundation, which was launched in March, has pledged 1m in its first year to promote the creation and performance of a wide range of new British music. Awards in the New Works, Composers-in-Education, Awards to Promoters and Bursaries schemes will be announced in August. Details of how to apply can be found on the PRSF web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's winter season at the Barbican will include The Tempest with Zubin Varla as Caliban, directed by James Macdonald, opening on 31st October. After a season in the Pit the production will form part of the European Theatre Union Festival in Budapest and then move to Stratford. In the Barbican Theatre, Aisling O'Sullivan will play The Duchess Of Malfi, directed by Gale Edwards, opening on 1st November. Booking opens in July.

The Rumour Machine says: that Susan Stroman is discussing a West End production of her Tony winning show Contact with producer Michael White; that Ruby Wax is to try out a new comedy show Stressed with a three week run at the Tricycle Theatre in November; and that despite the reviews, and the business (and the performances) the producers of La Cava at the Victoria Palace will keep it going unless the losses become totally insurmountable, as they intend to put a stage version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the theatre later this year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.