News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 25th May 2001

The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced that it is ending its twenty year association with the Barbican Theatre from May next year. In an effort to raise its profile and find a younger audience by attracting name actors, it will in future offer shorter contracts and play in West End and other theatres. Productions will transfer from Stratford to London for straight runs, rather than be performed in repertoire in one building. There will also be productions mounted specifically for the West End. The first fruits of this regime will be West End transfers for Peter Whelen's A Walk In The Woods and Martin Mcdonagh's The Lieutenant Of Inishmore in the autumn. This would appear to be a very high risk strategy after the debacle of The Secret Garden. It also puts the future of the Barbican in doubt, as the BITE summer seasons, although high in prestige, have been low in audience numbers and income.

Comedy duo David Woods and Jon Hough, who together form Ridiculusmus, are presenting 15 different shows in 13 different venues in a London season which runs until 17th June. The shows include their award winning Say Nothing, which takes a wry look at the peace process in Northern Ireland (and makes a good antidote to Stones In His Pockets); The Exhibitionists, about museum attendants; and Yes, Yes, Yes, which presents their vision of the world. Full details and excerpts from the shows can be found on the Ridiculusmus web site via the link from the Theatre Companies section of TheatreNet.

The Royal Opera House is to install airline style screens in the backs of its seats to provide five language translations and other information about productions for its audiences. Due to be completed within a year, the fitting of the system has been made possible thanks to a 6m gift from Alberto Vilar, who has already contributed 12m to the refurbishment of the Floral Hall, and 6m to the young artists development programme. Vilar funded the introduction of an English only system at the Metropolitan Opera in New York seven years ago, where it has proved very successful in helping to attract new audiences. Villar is the biggest benefactor in performing arts history, having given over 157m to opera, ballet and orchestras around the world in the last four years.

Contrary to previous contrary reports, Thembi Mtshali will bring her show A Woman In Waiting, co-written and directed by Yael Farber, to the New Ambassadors Theatre from 12th to 30th June. She will play evenings after The Vagina Monologues and Thursday matinees. Based on her life story, it tells of three generations of Zulu women, from life under Apartheid to the present day.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is holding another Masterclass season for young people who have an interest in theatre, or are keen to pursue a career in the arts. Events are open to people aged 16 and over, and are free of charge - but there is a refundable deposit required confirming the booking. The Opening Doors series on 5th, 7th 12th and 14th June covers Writing with Graham Whybrow and Simon Stephens, Technical Skills with Paul Arditti, Stephen Warbeck and Hugh Vanstone, Musical Theatre with Rosemary Ashe and Simon Lea, and Acting with Stephen Crockett, Dallas Smith and Geoffrey Colman. Sessions begin at 2.00pm and last around two hours. The autumn series of 12 events with masters of their art, which runs from September to December, will include Maureen Lipman on 2nd October. Further information can be found on the Theatre Royal Haymarket web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

Following the inaugural outdoor concerts held in the courtyard of the newly refurbished Somerset House last Spring Bank Holiday, a series is planned this summer. There will five classical concerts on Thursday evenings starting on midsummer night 21st June.

47% of the performers responding to an Arts Council survey of allowances in regional theatres say they are turning down work because pay levels are so low, according to a new survey conducted by Equity. Its aim was to determine how much performers need to support themselves when working away from home, and over two hundred members responded. The survey revealed that the total cost of working away from home ranged from 34.65 to 497.32 according to circumstances. Allowances in subsidised repertory theatre are currently 82 a week when working in a single theatre and 125 a week when on tour. Equity will be calling for substantial increases in its discussions with the Theatre Managers Association.

Donald Margulies Pulitzer Prize winning play Dinner With Friends opens at the Hampstead Theatre on 21st June, with Kevin Anderson, Samantha Bond, Elizabeth McGovern and Rolf Saxon. The story of an apparently happy couple who re-examine their relationship when their best friends decide to divorce is directed by Simon Curtis.

After campaigning for twenty years, the Arts Day Trust has finally succeeded in its ambition, and 24th June has been declared National Arts Day. Intended as a celebration of artistic activity across Britain, the length of the struggle for its recognition is an indication of the level official enthusiasm. Neither the Department of Culture nor the Arts Council of England's web sites include any mention of it, and nor when pushed (though claiming to support it) can they offer any information, other than a contact phone number for the Arts Day Trust: 020 8876 2161.

The Belgrade Theatre Coventry is presenting The Dice House, Paul Lucas stage adaptation of Luke Rhinehart's notorious novel The Dice Man, from13th to 30th June. The cult 1970s story revolves around the central character determining his life choices by a roll of the dice. The cast includes Tony Hawks, Matthew Cottle, Colin Tarrant, Caroline Wildi, Penny Laden and James Low, and the director is Bob Eaton.

The Rumour Machine on Broadway says: the current hottest ticket, Susan Stroman's production of Mel Brook's The Producers, will open in London early next year at the Dominion Theatre, as owner SFX is one of the army of co-producers, and that Joe Mantello's recent Roundabout Theater production of Noel Coward's Design For Living may be West End bound, but probably without stars Jennifer Ehle, Alan Cumming and Dominic West. The Rumour Machine grinds on.