News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 27th June 2003

Peter Hall is returning to his roots, to be the artistic director of a new 8.5m theatre currently nearing completion in Kingston on Thames, which will open officially in the autumn of next year. It has a modern 900 seater auditorium, based on the floor plan of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre in Bankside, with either standing or seating in the pit area, and so feels quite intimate. In a brave move Hall is to establish a 12 to 15 strong resident company, staging eight productions in repertoire from September to June each year. In the summer it will host an International Festival of Youth Theatre. The building also includes a 240 seater studio space, a 90 seater education and rehearsal room, and an art gallery. The theatre will be linked with a postgraduate degree course at Kingston University, where Hall is Chancellor, which he will also be heading. Further information can be found on the Kingston Theatre web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, Bea Arthur is bringing her one woman show, now retitled Bea Arthur At The Savoy, to the Savoy Theatre from 15th September to 18th October. Rather like Elaine Stritch: At Liberty (but taller) it is a mixture of music and reminiscence, looking back on a career during which she claims to have "done everything except rodeos and porn". Arthur is accompanied at the piano by Billy Goldenberg, the composer of the musical Ballroom. The show was created in collaboration with Charles Randolf Wright, Mark Waldrop and Richard Maltby Jr and has toured extensively in America. It is presented in London by Karl Sydow, David Aukin, Pieter Toerien and Act Productions.

Ross Kemp and Nichola McAuliffe are to star in The Taming Of The Shrew, which opens a UK regional tour at the Theatre Royal Plymouth on 2nd October, directed by Mark Rosenblatt. With Kemp in it this will presumably be a modern dress production, which will probably be less a comedy battle of the sexes than a serious examination of (prospective) wife beating. McAuliffe should have a head start as she has already played Katherine in Kiss Me Kate. The producer is Thelma Holt in association with the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

This year's Greenwich and Docklands Festival, which runs from 4th to 27th July, is bigger than ever, with even more ambitious events, mostly free and taking place outdoors. Highlights include: Encounters, a theatrical outdoor banquet with giant imagery, massed choirs, aerial circus and projections, marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Elizabeth 1, at the Old Royal Naval College; Dancing City, with all kinds of dance, including Tango Sumo in a specially created boxing ring structure and Provisional Danza who combine contemporary choreography with skateboarding, in the squares and waterfronts of Canary Wharf; Giraffes, a night time procession of illuminated life sized giraffe puppets accompanied by music and pyrotechnics, in Mile End Park; Tattoo, with giant insects in pursuit of a mechanical egg factory venting gooey foam among the audience, at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich; and Fanfire! a waterfront extravaganza which combines explosive percussion on giant drums with dramatic lighting, special effects and fireworks, at the University of East London. Further information can be found on the G&DF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Broadway certainly seems to have shaken off the after effects of the events of 11th September 2001, as grosses for the 2002/2003 Broadway season, which has just ended, were the highest ever. Figures released by the League of American Theatres and Producers showed that Broadway grossed $720.9m, up a staggering 12% on the previous year. This was partly due to the ever-rising prices, with the average going up to $63.80 from $58.63 - the biggest single season increase for 20 years. Attendances were up 4.3% on the previous year, with 11.4m paid admissions, the second highest ever (behind 2000/2001 season). It also set a record in the number of playing weeks of 1544, up 7.7%, but at 36, the number of new shows opening was down 1.

On The Casting Couch: Prunella Scales and Samantha Bond will join Rupert Graves and Rachel Stirling in A Woman Of No Importance at the Haymarket in September; and Kelly Riley will play the title role in Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie at the Donmar Warehouse in December.

With its latest production, After Mrs Rochester, yet to open at the Duke of York's Theatre, Shared Experience has already announced it next show. Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, adapted by Fay Weldon and directed by Polly Teale, will open at the Lyric Hammersmith on 5th November. It is the tale of a woman married to a man she does not love, but who dotes on her, who embarks on a series of affairs, getting deeper and deeper in debt.

This year's Arts Marketing Association Conference, Message In A Bottle, will take place from 16th to 18th July at the transformed Lighthouse in Poole. It will explore the art and science of communication, helping delegates to understand how and why communication has changed so dramatically in the last few years. A mixture of keynote speakers and a wide variety of group sessions will enable delegates to choose a programme that best caters to their interests and needs. There will be an accompanying exhibition featuring innovative products and services available for the cultural industries. Further information can be found on the AMA web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

Warren Mitchell, Larry Lamb, Des McAleer and Sian Thomas will recreate their roles from last year's production of Arthur Miller's The Price at the Tricycle Theatre on 13th August, prior to a transfer to the Apollo Theatre on 11th September (a good day to choose to open a play set in Lower Manhattan). The play examines the relationship of two long estranged brothers who meet after many years to dispose of their father's belongings. The director is Sean Holmes.

The Rumour Machine says: that Don Black and John Barry's musical adaptation of Graham Green's Brighton Rock is still going ahead, despite the slow progress (Barry first had the idea 40 years ago), with Giles Havergal writing the book, Michael Attenborough directing and Bill Kenwright producing next year; that the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester's current production of Hobson's Choice, starring Joanna Riding and John Thomson, may be heading south; and that Chicken Shed Theatre wants to transfer its production of Alice On The Underground, a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's Alice characters in a contemporary 'street cred' musical, with book and lyrics by Chris Bond and Paula Rees, and music by Jo Collins and David Carey to the West End. The Rumour Machine grinds on.