News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 26th May 2000

As if to underline the perilous situation of regional theatre, as recognised last week by the Arts Council of England in its Next Stage strategy, comes a report that the Leicester Haymarket may be converted into a library within the next year. The theatre is part of a shopping centre, and the local council (the leaseholder) is pursuing a Private Finance Initiative proposal with the freeholder, for a nine month fast track conversion. The council has conducted a feasibility study on proposals for a £30m arts complex elsewhere, which would include three auditoria as a replacement. The danger is of course that the Haymarket will be closed in the next few weeks, but the arts complex will never be built because of lack of finance. Even if it does ultimately materialise, a major regional producing venue will be lost for a number of years. An announcement is expected in the next two weeks.

As exclusively forecast here a fortnight ago, Michael Grandage's Donmar Warehouse production of Passion Play will transfer to the Comedy Theatre on 21st June for a 12 week season. Peter Nichols 1981 tragi-comedy examines a happy marriage of 25 years standing when the husband finds himself irresistibly drawn to another woman. It is complicated by advice from the couple's alter-egos. Cheryl Campbell, Martin Jarvis, James Laurenson, Cherie Lunghi, and Nicola Walker are the main combatants.

Neil Morrissey, Nathaniel Parker and Gina Bellman will star in an instant replay of Peter Gill's recent New Ambassadors production of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, opening at the Duke of York's Theatre on 29th June. Mamet's behind the camera look at Hollywood, centres on a producer and his decision, following his seduction by a temp, to film a novel about a nuclear catastrophe and the end of the world, rather than his usual star laden surefire hit.

Meanwhile, the New Ambassadors is currently hosting Sunday performances of the Australian duo Supergirly's Busting Out, a satire on female pop artists, until 16th July. Also at the New Ambassadors, the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, seen at the Young Vic Theatre in February, will open on 14th December for a Christmas season. Lee Hall has adapted the commedia del'arte farce, which tells the story of a servant who, in an effort to improve his financial position, becomes engaged by two different masters at the same time. Jason Watkins is expected to recreate the title role under Tim Supple's direction.

This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe again starts and ends a week before the main Festival, running from 6th to 28th August, and some elements of the programme have been revealed. The troubled Assembly Rooms will host Steven Berkoff's play about Christ, now titled Messaiah: Scenes From An Execution and new Liverpool writer Robert Farquhar's football play God's Official. The Dynamic Earth building (new this year) will house David Soul in Sam Shepard's Fool For Love, and two international companies in its 1500 seat amphitheatre. The Pleasance is expanding to take over The Chaplaincy Centre, Potterow (renamed Club Pleasance) which will feature The Donkey Show - the Off Broadway disco version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a touring bus on which the English Shakespeare Company will perform. Pleasance shows will include Nicholas Parsons Happy Hour - cocktails, chat and audience participation, living puppet Maybellene, and 666 - a "very rude" physical comedy set on death row. The Fringe programme containing full details will be launched on 8th June.

Online Classics is a web site which offers visitors the opportunity to watch and listen to over 100 hours of recordings of live opera, concert, musical theatre and drama performances, from across Britain and Europe. Currently available productions include Glyndebourne Opera's Death In Venice and La Traviata, English National Opera's Xerxes and The Fairy Queen, and the National Theatre's Oklahoma! and The Mysteries. There is also a regular programme of live webcasts. There is a link to Classics Online from the Shows section of TheatreNet.

The 2000/2001 season at the Royal Opera House has been announced. The Royal Ballet will stage revivals of: Swan Lake, Ondine, The Nutcracker, La Fille mal gardée, Romeo and Juliet and Giselle; and mixed programmes that will include the premieres of works by Michael Corder and Ashley Page, as well as two Antony Tudor works from the 1960s. The Royal Opera will present four new productions: Tristan und Isolde, La Cenerentola, The Queen Of Spades and Hans Werner Henze's Boulevard Solitude. The season will feature appearances by José Cura, Thomas Allen, Maria Guleghina, Bryn Terfel, Amanda Roocroft, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. Terfel, Gheorghiu and Kiri Te Kanawa will also take part in a series of concert performances by international artists. The Opera House has reviewed its price structure, so that over half the house will cost under £50 for all opera productions, and £39 or less for all ballets.

In the ultimate act of accessibility, Morris dancing is to be given street cred. Steve Rouse is putting together England Dances, an attempt to do for English folk dance what Riverdance did for Irish foot stamping. A company of five men and five women will perform clog dances, sailor's hornpipes and other traditional dances, including Morris, to a "Last Night Of The Proms" style selection of English music. Although the ruling Morris Dancing Ring of England has decreed that Morris "sides" must be all male, many groups now have integrated casting, which has sparked a revival of interest in the form.

The eighth Meltdown Festival, directed this year by Scott Walker, runs from 17th June to 2nd July encompassing all of the South Bank Centre venues. The usual eclectic mix features many London and /or UK premieres, including the Richard Alston Dance Company and the Cholmondeleys in a double bill of works to new scores by Scott Walker and Orbital; French director Luc Bondy's production of Beckett's En Attendant Godot; a new composition by Mark Anthony Turnage; Ensemble Organum, an early music group specialising in pre and para-Gregorian chant; and a full cinema programme of 14 films at the National Film Theatre. Further details from the Meltdown web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that the Royal Court will premiere Far Away, a new play by Caryl Churchill directed by Stephen Daldry in the autumn; that Phill Jupitus may be the next comedian to go semi-legit in Art (they'll get round to Basil Brush eventually); and that the Market Theatre of Johannesburg production of The Island, recently seen at the National Theatre, will return for a West End season in January presented by Lee Menzies. The Rumour Machine grinds on.