Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews
Confirming last week's report, Fiona Shaw returns to the West End as Euripides Medea at the Queens Theatre on 30th January. The play explores the psychological complexities surrounding people in extreme situations, as Medea avenges her husband's betrayal by killing all around her including their children. This is an Abbey Theatre Dublin production, directed by Deborah Warner, which will feature a new supporting cast in London.
The 29th International Magic Convention will be held in London from 1st to 3rd December. It includes lectures, demonstrations, competitions, and a suppliers exhibition. The event culminates in a performance by top international magicians Rudy Coby, Michael Menes, Johnny Lonn, Kenji Minemura, Davide Costi, Scott Penrose, Noel Britten, Vladik Miagkostoupov, Eric Buss and Tom Ogden at Her Majesty's Theatre on 3rd December. Further information can be found on the International Magic web site via the link from the Suppliers section of TheatreNet.
Richard Briers stars in the world premiere of Spike by Simon Day at the Nuffield Theatre Southampton from 1st February to 3rd March. It tells the story of a car showroom owner whose world is turned upside down by the arrival of a strange boy. It will be the first time Briers has appeared alongside wife Ann Davies and daughter Lucy Briers. The director is Dominic Hill and it is co-produced with The Theatre Of Comedy Company in association with Lemon Inc.
The London Radio Playwrights' Festival is holding a competition for original 45-minute radio dramas, with £1,500 each for the best 6 entries chosen for broadcast. Writers are invited to create stories that will inspire the imagination of London radio listeners, and create a picture in the mind of London culture for a global audience on the internet. The Festival patron is Olwen Wymark, and judges include Yvonne Brewster, David Yip, and Mark Ravenhill. To be eligible writers must be living or working in Greater London. Scripts should be sent to London Radio Playwrights' Festival, PO Box 518, Manningtree, Essex CO11 1XD by 31st December. Further information can be found on the Independent Radio Drama Productions web site via the link from the Producers section of TheatreNet.
The Broadway production of Les Miserables is to trim 14 minutes from its 3 hours and 12 minutes running time in an effort to cut the weekly running costs. The contracts for stage/wardrobe staff and musicians are based on a 3 hour session and therefore generate overtime payments for every show. The changes, to be rehearsed and introduced in December, will eliminate $23,000 in overtime costs, aiming to allow the show to remain profitable for longer. Since opening at the Broadway Theatre in 1987 (before later transferring to the Imperial) the show has paid some $16m in overtime. The trimming will be achieved by tightening the production rather than cutting numbers. The concert version, which has played around the world, runs 2 hours and 21 minutes. No announcement has been made about incorporating the changes into the London production, but it is reasonable to suppose that the revised version will be adopted everywhere.
A new production of the award winning Broadway show Rent will start a 20 date regional tour on 5th February at the Haymarket Theatre Leicester. Jonathan Larson's musical, which is now in its 5th year in New York, relocates the story of La Boheme in contemporary Greenwich Village with aids standing in for consumption. It will be directed by Paul Kerryson and produced by Rent UK Tour Ltd, a collaboration of Mark Goucher, Adam Kenwright, Sarah Earle, Paul Spyker and Andrew Stott.
Theatre 2001: Future Directions, the first ever cross industry conference of British theatre practitioners, will be held in London from 28th February to 3rd March. Its aim is to address the challenges and opportunities facing the theatre. Key topics will include new ways of working, developing new leadership, new audiences and ways of financing, the interdependence of the industry, and the need for new product. Speakers will include Melvyn Bragg, Richard Eyre, Chris Smith, David Puttnam and Alan Parker. The event is being organised by the Society Of London Theatre, the Theatrical Management Association and the Independent Theatre Council. Further information can be found on the Theatre 2001 web site via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.
Anton Rodgers, Peter Davison and Belinda Lang are to star in Peter Tilbury's modern farce Under The Doctor opening the Churchill Theatre Bromley at the end of January. Fiona Laird will direct the production which is aiming for a West End transfer.
The Pit Theatre at the Barbican Centre is currently being remodelled by the Royal Shakespeare Company into a configuration inspired by The Other Place in Stratford. It will be transformed from a thrust to a wide end stage, moving the seating through 90 degrees into one bank. A permanent white box setting designed by David Fielding will be shared by all the productions in the season. The new look will be launched with the opening of Richard II on 21st December.
Nicholas Hawkesmoor's Christ Church once again hosts the Spitalfields Winter Festival from 14th to 22nd December. Presented by candlelight in one of London's most striking buildings, the music ranges from the intimate - lute song with Emma Kirkby, through devotional - choral works from Clare College Cambridge, Winchester Cathedral Choir and City Chamber Choir, to the ecstatic - the Quartet for the End of Time with Zenith. There are opportunities for audiences to join in with the City Chamber Choir and the Allcomers event led by Laka D. All this, plus free events, walks, talks and exhibitions about the Spitalfields area and the restoration of Christ Church, one of the great baroque churches of Europe. There is a link to the Spitalfields Festival web site from Festivals section of TheatreNet.
And Finally . . . Despite its street cred exposed beam and brickwork makeover, the Royal Court Theatre has gone fluffy over its lift announcements. Artistic director Ian Rickson so disliked the standard mechanical voice supplied, that asked actors, including Harriet Walter, Jim Norton, Hugh Quarshie, Lindsay Duncan and Richard Wilson to record new ones. So patrons can now hear Ray Winstone warn "Going . . . wait for it . . . up" and Emily Watson coo "Doors opening". Rickson has since commented "I think it is some of my best work" - and that's not just his opinion.