News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 24th January 2003

Nicholas Hytner has confirmed that under his stewardship of the National Theatre from April, there will be an emphasis on new writing that addresses contemporary issues. New plays will include: Elmina.s Kitchen, by actor Kwame Kwei-Armah, about the yardie gun and drug culture in Hackney.s .murder mile., directed by Angus Jackson; David Hare.s latest state of the nation play, provisionally titled The Permanent Way, which examines the shortcomings of life under New Labour, directed by Max Stafford-Clark; Owen McCafferty.s Scenes From The Big Picture, .an Altmanesque 24 hours in Belfast., directed by Peter Gill; Robert Lindsay in Nick Dear.s Power, a comedy about the rise and fall of Louis XIV.s treasurer, directed by Lindsay Posner; Martin McDonagh.s The Pillowman directed by John Crowley; and Theatre Of Blood, a devised piece in association with Improbable Theatre, based on the film; plus new works by Michael Frayn and Mike Leigh.

Classics will include Stephen Rea in Edmond Rostand.s Cyrano de Begerac directed by Howard Davies; Chekhov.s The Three Sisters directed by Katie Mitchell; Eugene O.Neil.s Mourning Becomes Electra directed by Howard Davies; Odon Von Horvath.s Tales From The Vienna Woods directed by Richard Jones; and Nikolai Erdman.s The Mandate adapted and directed by Declan Donnellan; plus Alex Jennings and Zoe Wanamaker in John Guare.s new adaptation of the film His Girl Friday, itself based on the classic newspaper comedy The Front Page, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, directed by American Jack O.Brien.

Pretending To Be Me, the one man show about Philip Larkin, written and performed by Tom Courtenay, will open at the Comedy Theatre on 18th February. In his first writing for the stage, Courtenay paints a portrait of the poet, combining his own words with Larkin's writing in letters, interviews and essays, as well as his poetry. Directed by Ian Brown, the show received its world premiere at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds last November, and is presented by ACT Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group.

The English Touring Theatre production of King Lear, starring Timothy West, will play a season at the Old Vic Theatre from 18th March to 19th April. For the extensive tour last autumn, the cast also included David Cardy, Garry Cooper, Patrick Drury, Catherine Kanter, Rachel Pickup, Dominic Rickhards, and Jessica Turner. The director is Stephen Unwin.

Garsington Opera, one of the .alternative Glyndebournes., has announced this year.s season, running from 14th June to 12th July. It comprises: Strauss Die schweigsame Frau directed by David Fielding; Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia directed by Marco Gandini; and Motzart.s La finta giardiniera directed by Steuart Bedford. Further information can be found on the GPO web site via the link from the Dance, Opera, Orchestras & Choirs section of TheatreNet.

Northern Ballet Theatre opens its spring tour with the British premiere of Requiem, choreographed by Birgit Scherzer, at Grand Theatre Leeds on 14th February. Set to Mozart.s Requiem, it explores the relationship between Man and Death, Death.s presence in the world, and its inescapable power. Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra will accompany the piece, together with four soloists and a choir of fifty.

It.s Official! As previously forecast here, Bill Kenwright.s touring production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Stephen Gately, will open at the New London Theatre on 3rd March.

Tickets for the Olivier Awards presentation ceremony, introduced by Clive Anderson, starting at mid day at the Lyceum Theatre on 14th February, are now available from the Society Of London Theatre web site, which can be found via the link opposite.

The Mysteries, the South African reinterpretation of the Chester Mystery Plays with a 40 strong cast, has just embarked on a regional tour, which will include a return to London at the Peacock Theatre from 3rd to 8th March.

American theatre has lost a true original with the death of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who chronicled Broadway history for 75 years. Best known for his theatrical caricatures for The New York Times, Hirschfeld's drawings also appeared in The New Yorker, Life, Time, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and dozens of other publications. To be the subject of a Hirschfeld was to have arrived as a performer, and the final accolade was for it to be chosen to among the framed originals adorning the walls of the legendary Sardi.s restaurant. When his daughter Nina was born, he began embedding her name in his works, and the small number next to his signature reveals how many Ninas can be found in each particular drawing. Already the winner of a special Tony Award, Hirschfeld will get the ultimate tribute from the Broadway theatre community on 21st June, the 100th anniversary of his birth, when the Martin Beck Theatre will be renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Hirshfeld.s work can be found online via the link from the New York section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that the Royal Shakespeare Company is in discussions with Really Useful Theatres about making the New London Theatre its new permanent London home; and that film versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber.s The Phantom Of The Opera and The Beautiful Game are both aiming to start shooting in October, with Antonio Banderas still favourite to don the mask (for an unknown director), and Srdjan Dragojevic directing Ben Elton.s screenplay of the Irish football and terrorism saga. The Rumour Machine grinds on.