News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 25th August 2000

The autumn season in the West End is shaping up, with various shows which have been seeking theatres finally securing a venue. First comes confirmation that Noel Coward's Brief Encounter, adapted for the stage by Andrew Taylor, will open a short season at the Lyric Theatre on 11th September. Jenny Seagrove and Christopher Cazenove star in the story of a lonely housewife who finds temptation in the form of a doctor she meets every Thursday in a railway buffet. Being a period piece however, they both know that their burgeoning love can never be fulfilled. Brian Deacon, Elizabeth Power, Christopher Beeny, April Walker, Amy Rodgers, Andrew Blair and Sion Lloyd are the accompanying staff and passengers, and Roger Redfarn as director blows the whistle.

This will be followed at the Lyric on 21st November by Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, with Jessica Lange, Charles Dance and Paul Nicholls, directed by Robin Phillips. The play centres on an actor whose wife has failed to conquer her enduring drug problem, and whose son is an alcoholic.

Meanwhile next door at the Apollo Theatre, Noel Coward's Fallen Angels with Felicity Kendal and Frances de la Tour will open on 25th October. It tells of two girlfriends in companionable but dull marriages who await the arrival of the same former lover, and their husbands - a Cowardian menage a cinque. Michael Rudman directs a company which also includes Eric Carte, James Wooley, Stephen Grief and Tilly Tremain. In a return to his usual hive of activity, Bill Kenwright produces all three of these shows.

Harold Pinter's The Caretaker will open on 15th November at the Comedy Theatre. Michael Gambon stars as a tramp with whom Rupert Graves and Douglas Hodge (as two brothers) play Pinterish power games. Patrick Marber directs, and the producer is Robert Fox. Marber's as yet untitled new play will premiere at the Donmar Warehouse next year.

The Chichester Festival Theatre production of The Blue Room, David Hare's contemporary adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, transfers to the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 2nd October for a short season. No Nicole Kidman or Iain Glen this time round, Michael Higgs and Camilla Power play all the characters in the chain of sexually charged encounters. Loveday Ingram directs the Theatre Royal Haymarket presentation.

This will be followed in early December by Jeffrey Archer making his stage debut in The Accused, his courtroom drama in which the audience is the jury, and the ending depends on their decision - like Pageant. Edward Petherbridge, Tony Britton and Edward de Souza join Archer in the tale of a doctor, who is either a faithful husband or a wife killer. The director is Val May and the producer is Lee Menzies.

London Open House, the annual scheme to allow the public into architecturally interesting but usually private buildings across the capital, takes place on 23rd and 24th September. A record number of over 550 locations will include old favourites of theatrical interest such as Almeida, Dominion, and Players theatres, Hackney Empire, Wilton's Music Hall, Circus Space, Granada Tooting, State Kilburn, and the Blackheath, Royal Festival and Wigmore Halls, BBC Bush House, Broadcasting House and Television Centre, and the ITN building. They will be joined this year by amongst others the new/refurbished Royal Court, Royal Opera House and Soho theatre, plus Channel 4 and Sands Film Studio and Rotherhythe Picture Research Library. There are also 15 different conducted walks taking place at various locations over the course of the weekend. In 1999 over 370,000 visits were made during the two days. Entrance is free, and some venues include accompanying special events. To obtain a directory call 09001 600 061 or see the London Open House web site via the link from the TheatreNet Festivals section.

Patricia Highsmith's Strangers On A Train, famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, has been adapted for the stage by Craig Warner. An architect and a playboy meet on a train, and strike a bargain to commit an unsolveable murder for each other. Stephen Billington and Alan Cox are the strangers, with Diane Fletcher, William Oxborrow and Alexandra Staden, and the director is Ian Brown. Redington Matthews Toerien presents the production, which opens an extensive regional tour at the Colchester Mercury on 31st August.

The autumn season at Greenwich Theatre opens on 5th September with the Newbury Watermill production of Bizet's Carmen, adapted and directed by John Doyle. Relocated to the time of the Spanish Civil War, it features a group of actor musicians who accompany themselves. Other highlights include: Stephen Greenhorn's "Road Movie for the Stage: Trainspotting crossed with Whisky Galore" Passing Places from 9th to 21st October; a new community musical It'll All Come Out In The Wash, with book and lyrics by Peter Quilter and music by Charles Miller, from 17th to 25th November; and Jack Wild, Ian Adams and Richard Gauntlett in Roy Hudd's version of Cinderella from 5th December to 13th January.

Number one classical music and opera promoter Raymond Gubbay is to branch out into drama, joining Thelma Holt to present a West End production of Noel Coward's Semi-Monde. Originally titled Ritz Bar, it is an upmarket, and more louche, version of Cavalcade, set in the public rooms of a grand hotel. Coward said that its characters "shared their apartments and their lives with members of the opposite, or the same, sex and no wife dreamed for one instant of doing anything so banal as living with her husband". Although written in 1926, the play did not receive its world premiere until 1977 at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, with a cast which included Pierce Brosnan, and it has rarely been seen since.

Lia Salonga, the original Miss Saigon in both London and New York, is to return to the role for a production at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in her birthplace Manilla. A number of Filipinos who played in the London production will be in the cast, together with seven British actors playing American GI's, as well as veterans from other productions. The director is Peter Lawrence and the choreographer is Maggie Goodwin.

The Bush Theatre reopens after refurbishment on 27th October with the return of Mark O'Rowe's comedy Howie The Rookie, which tells of two lads in the underworld of Dublin. Mike Bradwell directs. This is followed by Ash Kotak's Bollywood style Hijra, a comedy about a young Indian man's love for a eunuch (or Hijra) who he decides to smuggle back to Wembley as his wife. At Christmas The National Theatre of Brent - Patrick Barlow and John Ramm - perform their unique interpretation of The Messiah.