News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 26th April 2002

The 108th season of the BBC Henry Wood Promenade Concerts takes place at the Royal Albert Hall between 19th July and 14th September. The world's greatest classical music festival centres on 73 main concerts (at least one every evening) with consistently low ticket prices, including 500 "promming" tickets available each day 90 minutes before the performance at only 4 each. In addition there is a series of Pre-Prom talks at the RAH, lunch time Chamber Music Proms at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Poetry Proms at the Royal College of Music, and Late Night Proms starting at 10pm. There will be more concerts televised than ever before thanks to the arrival of BBC4. The two main themes for this year are Spanish and Latin American music, and Old Testament Heroes. The Last Night will have Rule Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory restored after last year's amended programme. It will also include the seventh outdoor Proms In The Park, with 35,000 people in Hyde Park joining in, and simultaneous concerts running in Belfast and Gateshead. All three concerts culminate in live big screen link ups with the Royal Albert Hall. Full details can be found on the BBC Proms web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The previously mentioned revival of Michael Frayn's Benefactors, which starts a regional tour at Milton Keynes Theatre on 22nd May, will open at the Albery Theatre on 25th June. It stars Neil Pearson, Emma Chambers, Aden Gillett and Sylvestra Le Touzel, and is directed by Jeremy Sams. The bleak tragicomedy traces the relationship of two neighbouring professional couples over a period of fifteen years, the fortunes of one rising, while in the other an architect sees his idealistic dreams frustrated by politics. The producers are Sonia Friedman, Old Vic Productions, Mark Rubenstein, Nederlander and Dominic Madden.

Umoja, the celebration of South African song and dance, which was forced to close at the Shaftesbury Theatre earlier this year after complaints of noise by the neighbours, is returning to the West End. The show, which combines tribal music, gumboot dancing, jazz, gospel and the contemporary sounds of Kwaito and Pantsula, will open at the Queen's Theatre in early June. Fortunately there are no residential properties in that stretch of Shaftesbury Avenue.

Following his experience conducting live full orchestral accompaniment to silent film classics, Carl Davis is taking on ballet. He will direct the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dance Romeo And Juliet in the 1966 film. This records their performances in Kenneth MacMillan's Royal Ballet production to Prokofiev's score, considered to be their greatest collaboration. The event will be part of Film-harmonic, a series of film and music concerts at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall running from 25th to 30th June. Further information can be found on the RLPH web site via the link from the Regional Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The world premiere of Tom Stoppard's trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, comprising Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage, directed by Trevor Nunn, will open at the National Theatre on 3rd August. Set in 19th century Russia, it is an epic story following the three main characters over a period of twenty five years. The cast of 29, playing 50 characters both fictional and historical (such as Karl Marx and Ivan Turgenev) includes Stephen Dillane Guy Henry, John Carlisle, Raymond Coulthard, Eve Best, Charlotte Emerson, Douglas Henshall, Anna Maxwell-Martin and Janine Duvitski.

A new production of the comedy Mum's The Word, about the joys and agonies of parenting told through the lives of six mothers, will play a regional tour later this year with the West End in mind. Originally created from personal experience by (and for) a group of out of work actresses in Vancouver, it has also been a big hit in Australia. The show recently completed a record breaking Scottish tour, with Blythe Duff, Lorraine M McIntosh, Libby McArthur, Julie Coombe and Carole Ander. Future casting has yet to be confirmed. The producers are Back Row Productions and Robert C Kelly.

The Mercury Workshop and News Musicals Alliance, the two leading organisations in Britain that offered information and support to writers in musical theatre, have merged to form Mercury Musical Developments. Drawing together their individual strengths, MMD aims to better serve, encourage and inspire musical theatre writers, and is committed to creating exciting new works for the 21st century. The existing combined membership includes most of the leading musical theatre writers and composers currently working in the UK, and new associate members will be welcome. The organisation officially launches on 30th April, when its new web site goes live as a resource for writers. This can be found via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The new season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough includes three premieres. Tim Firth's comedy The Safari Party, set in deepest Cheshire, and more correctly a 'meal crawl' - moving from house to house for a different course at the home of each of three couples, with Amanda Abbington, John Branwell, Daniel Casey, Daniel Crowder, Christine Moore and Helen Ryan, directed by Alan Ayckbourn, runs until 18th May. Bernard Farrell's Happy Birthday, Dear Alice, about a widow with a faulty hearing aid who isn't prepared to acquiesce to her children's plans concerning a nursing home, with Paul Boyle, John Paul Connolly, Caroline John, Barry McCarthy, Teresa McElroy and Roisin Rae, directed by Sam Walters, Theatre, runs from 22nd May to 6th July, and is a co-production with the Orange Tree Theatre. Alan Ayckbourn's latest play Snake In The Grass, about two sisters whose past comes back to haunt them, runs in repertoire with a revival of his Joking Apart, both directed by Ayckbourn, from 30th May to 7th September.

The Rumour Machine (on location in Hollywood) says: that Tom Stoppard may write the screenplay for the upcoming return of Indiana Jones (presumably Harrison Ford will be playing the Sean Conery role this time); and that the film of the musical Chicago, with Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, will be released at Christmas. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . Armed with his pension plan courtesy of the world wide franchise of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Adrian Noble, the beleaguered artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has resigned (or will not be seeking a renewal of his contract). Despite face saving assurances to the contrary by the RSC's governing body, let us hope that his successor will heed the widespread alarm in both the theatre community and the public at large, and scrap Noble's plans to demolish the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford - and then go on to restore an ensemble company playing in repertoire.