News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 26th January 2001

Really Useful Theatres is launching its own award for new West End producers, to encourage fresh blood to bring new work to London. The Binkie Beaumont Awards, named after the legendary impresario, will only be open to producers who are not full members of the Society Of London Theatre. They will be awarded to recognise new writing, directing, composing and performing talent presented in a RUT venue, and will be presented on Twelfth Night. British awards, including the Oliviers, have not recognised the role played by producers, unlike on Broadway, where the Tony Awards for Best Play/Musical/Revival go to the producers.

The Lyric Hammersmith has three premieres in its spring season. Robin Maugham's The Servant, adapted and directed by Neil Bartlett, with Emma Amos, Jack Davenport, Michael Feast and Crispin Letts, plays from 8th March to 21st April. The story was famously adapted into one of the classic films of the '60s. Physical theatre company Frantic Assembly returns with Underworld, a 21st Century ghost story looking at the thin line between four women's paranoia and the paranormal, from 23rd to 28th April. The show is directed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, and scripted by Nicola McCartney. The Right Size present Bewilderness, 'a comedy about two men down the back of a sofa', written and devised by Sean Foley, Hamish McColl and Jos Houben, from 2nd May to 2nd June. Sean Foley and Hamish McColl are joined by Freddie Jones and regular musical collaborator Chris Larner.

The Teachers Preview Club, an initiative from The Mousetrap Foundation, offers teachers of any subject the opportunity to attend West End shows at greatly reduced prices, to help decide which shows are suitable for their pupils. There are two exclusive events next month. On 24th February matinee performance of The Secret Garden, there will be a discussion with Michael Coley-Smith, who is writing a teachers resource pack for the production, and members of the cast and/or artistic team. On 27th February evening performance of Stones In His Pockets, there will be a discussion with a member of the cast, stage management team and the producer. An annual fee of £15 entitles members to a pair of reduced price tickets to over sixty productions, a quarterly newsletter listing current offers, with details of age suitability, curriculum links and relevant educational resources, as well as articles written for teachers by teachers on using West End plays in a classroom setting. Further information can be found on The Mousetrap Foundation web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse presents the world premiere of Mister Heracles, by Simon Armitage, based on the play by Euripedes, from 16th February to 17th March. When a living legend returns home after years away, he finds his family under threat of execution and his country in despair, but he's not the hero they are seeking. It is co-directed by Natasha Betteridge and Simon Godwin.

The second transmission in Broadway Television Network's series of pay-per-view broadcasts of Broadway shows will be on 10th March with the Frank Wildhorn-Leslie Brucusse musical Jekyl & Hyde. This was recorded over the final week of its New York run, which ended on 7th January. It featured the Broadway debut of David Hasselhoff in the leading roles. The participation in the scheme of the four major New York theatre owners, a number of influential producers, and all performing and craft unions and organisations was heralded as a ground breaking agreement. However audience response to the first show, Smokey Joe's Café, was much lower than anticipated, and this time the charge has been reduced from $24.95 to $19.95 - considerably lower than the $35 originally forecast. Putting It Together, the Sondheim revue, is expected to be broadcast towards the end of the year.

The new spring booking period at the National Theatre, in addition to previously mentioned productions, will include: Alex Jennings in The Winter's Tale with Julian Wadham, directed by Nicholas Hytner, opening on 11th May; and a co-production with Birmingham Rep of The Ramayana: Legend of Prince Rama, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, from 10th to 21st April. This is one of the world's oldest romantic folk tales, following the adventures of Prince Rama and Sita, in a new version by Peter Oswald. The cast includes Charlotte Bicknell, Vincent Ebrahim, George Eggay, Andrew French, Saul Jaffe, Guy Rhys, Inika Leigh Wright and Miltos Yerolemou. Two new NT Education productions make brief visits: A Midsummer Night's Dream from 2nd to 4th April and Brecht's The Good Woman Of Setzuan, in a new version by Tanika Gupta, between 20th March and 14th May. The company includes Deborah Asante, Matthew Ashforde, David Baker, Agron Biba, Tim Crouch, Lynn Ferguson, Jennifer Lim and Cleo Sylvestre.

The latest episode in the diaries of the playwright Simon Gray, entitled 'Enter A Fox: Further Adventures Of A Paranoid' have just been published. It charts the period when his last play The Late Middle Classes played a pre London tour, but was denied a West End home in favour of the justly ridiculed Boyband. Gray's writing about the theatrical production process in the past has been as valuable as the plays themselves - but then he has been through some interesting times. His latest play Japes has found a theatre and opens at the Haymarket on 7th February.

Therese Raquin, a musical conceived by director/choreographer Susan Stroman and Harry Connick Jr will arrive on Broadway in the autumn. Connick Jr has written the music and lyrics, with book by David Thompson, based on Emile Zola's novel about a woman who persuades her lover to murder her husband, and then gives him away to the police. The show had a successful workshop at Lincoln Center Theatre, which was involved in Stroman's last project Contact, the Tony Award winner which is still playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The cast will include Neil Patrick Harris and Daniel G. Pino but who will play the title role is still unconfirmed.

The Wolsey Theatre Ipswich re-opens as The New Wolsey Theatre on 1st February with Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd. Paul Leonard stars as The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, with Joanna Mays in charge of the cooking, and Peter Rowe directing.

The Rumour Machine says: that Arlene Phillips will direct a London production of the musical Footloose, based on the film, which ran for two years on Broadway; that Cameron Mackintosh has invested £10,000 in the development of Leon Parris Going Once, the winner of the last Vivian Ellis Prize for most promising musical - although he has not committed to producing it; and that the Really Useful Group and Chinese Performing Arts Association will present a new version of The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Great Hall Of The People in Tiananmen Square in May, prior to touring across China. The Rumour Machine grinds on.