News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 26th August 2005

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to bring its Gunpowder season of plays from the Swan Theatre in Stratford to the Trafalgar Studios for a 10 week season from 21st December. The political dramas written by Shakespeare's contemporaries, and performed by an ensemble company, are: A New Way To Please You by Thomas Middleton, William Rowley and Philip Massinger, a black comedy around the idea that every man of 80 and woman of 60 be put down as they are no longer useful to society, directed by Sean Holmes; Thomas More partly written by Shakespeare, with Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, about the race riots and dissent that More attempted to quell, directed by Robert Delamore; Sejanus - His Fall by Ben Jonson, charting the rise and fall of Emperor Tiberius's chief lieutenant, directed by Gregory Doran; Believe What You Will by Philip Massinger, a story of the Roman Empire threatening war on any state that grants refuge to an exiled Middle Eastern leader, directed by Josie Rourke; and the world premiere of Speaking Like Magpies by Frank McGuinness, about the background to the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, directed by Rupert Goold. The shows will play sequentially in 'fortnightly rep' rather than in repertoire as they did in Stratford.

Meanwhile, Riding Lights Theatre Company's production of Bridget Foreman's Remember, Remember…, another new play about Guy Fawkes and the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, directed by Paul Burbridge, opens an extensive national tour of one night stands at Westborough Methodist Church in Scarborough on 20th September. The company comprises Matt Jamie, Aoibheann Kelly, Jonathan Lambert, Patrick O'Sullivan and Ellie Trevitt.

The current Donmar Warehouse production of Schiller's Mary Stuart, about the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, is to transfer to the Apollo Theatre, opening on 19th October. Most of the original cast will remain, including Janet McTeer, Harriet Walter, Tam Dean Burn, Stephen Fletcher, David Horovitch, Rory Kinnear and Rufus Wright.

The new season at the Palace Theatre Watford includes Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory Of Water, with Gary Beadle, Michelle Bunyan, Robert Duncan, Miranda Foster, Jacquetta May and Catherine Shipton, in which three sisters are reunited at their mother's funeral and a family secret is revealed, directed by Joyce Branagh, opening on 15th September; and the premiere of Queen's English, a comedy by Vanessa Brooks set at a language school, which pokes fun at ideas of national identity, class and Britain's role in the modern world, directed by Lawrence Till, opening on 3rd November.

Brits On Broadway: The original Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough production of Alan Ayckbourn's Private Fears In Public Places was such a hit at the Brits Off Broadway Festival in New York last month, that a Broadway production will open next March with an American cast, produced by the Shubert Organisation. Ayckbourn's 67th play is a tale of the misheard, the unspoken and the sadly misunderstood, as six people, leading six separate lives, are strangely linked by circumstance. Prior to this, Manhattan Theatre Club will stage Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular (that's the one set in the kitchen at Christmas) with Mireille Enos, Clea Lewis, Sam Robards, Alan Ruck, Deborah Rush and Paxton Whitehead, directed by John Tillinger, at the Biltmore Theatre, opening on 22nd September. Meanwhile, a musical adaptation of Henry Fielding's novel Tom Jones, with book and lyrics by Paul Leigh, and music and lyrics by George Stiles, will play at Theatre at St. Clements from 26th September to 2nd October, as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The satire of 18th century town and country life stars David Ayers, Angela Gaylor and Tim Jerome, and is directed by Gabriel Barre, with choreography by Christopher Gattelli.

English Touring Theatre's production of Hamlet, with Ed Stoppard, Anita Dobson, Alice Patten, David Robb, and Michael Cronin, Patrick Drury, Liam Evans-Ford, Richard Hansell, Sam Hazeldine, John Heffernan, Martin Hodgson, Rhys Meredith, Ross Waiton and Ben Warwick directed by Stephen Unwin, opens a national tour at Oxford Playhouse on 22nd September.

Stage One and the Society Of London Theatre, in association with Arts Council England, is inviting further applications for a New Producer's Bursary. The bursaries are intended to support individuals in progressing their careers as theatre producers. Successful applicants will be able to use the bursary to develop and/or present a new production. In addition to a broad package of financial assistance of up to £15,000 per applicant, the scheme also provides the benefit of an established industry figure as a mentor for the project, and possibly shared office accommodation in Central London. For further information and an application form, send an A4 SAE to: New Producer's Bursary, Stage One, 32 Rose Street, London WC2E 9ET. The closing date for this round of applications is 29th September.

The autumn season at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch includes The Titfield Thunderbolt, Philip Goulding's new adaptation of the Ealing film comedy written by T E B Clarke, about a local community taking over a branch railway line when British Railways wants to shut it down, with Paul Leonard, Kate O'Mara, Steven Pinder, Philip Reed and Loveday Smith, directed by Bob Carlton, from 30th August; Edward Albee's Whose Afraid Of Virginia Wolfe?, the 20th century classic play about the love hate relationship of a long married couple, from 3rd October; Curses!, a musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novella The Canterville Ghost, by Julian Ronnie and Paul Miller, with additional material by Alan Heap, the comic tale of an American businessman who buys a medieval English manor house haunted by a 300 year old ghost, which tries to scare all newcomers out of its home, opening on 7th November; and Cinderella, a new version of the traditional story by Nicholas Pegg, with music and lyrics by Carol Sloman, opening on 6th December.

The Rumour Machine says: that Jeff Wayne's 1978 concept album of a musical version of H G Wells's The War Of The Worlds may finally reach the stage in an $18m production in Beijing in 2007, courtesy of the M-Star International Culture And Media Company; that David Hare's Stuff Happens, about events leading up to the Iraq war, will receive its fully staged New York premiere at the Public Theater, in association with producer Scott Rudin; and that This Is Elvis: Viva Las Vegas, a show by Philip Norman about Elvis Presley's Las Vegas comeback, in which the first act is a fictional pre show backstage 'rockumentary', and the second act is the on stage performance, will be West End bound in the new year, produced by Laurie Mansfield and Bill Kenwright. The Rumour Machine grinds on.