News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 27th July 2007

The National Theatre has confirmed new productions in its autumn schedule. In the Olivier: Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, adapted by Nick Stafford, about a boy who goes to the battlefield in the First World War to rescue his horse, directed by Tom Morris and Marianne Elliott, in collaboration with South African puppet company Handspring; and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, with Zoe Wanamaker, Simon Russell Beale and Susannah Fielding, directed by Nicholas Hytner. In the Lyttelton: Noel Coward's Present Laughter, the semi autobiographical comedy about the chaotic home life of a matinee idol, with Alex Jennings, Lisa Dillon, Sara Stewart and Sarah Woodward, directed by Howard Davies. In the Cottesloe: the double bill of plays about the lives of teenagers, first seen last year, Enda Walsh's Chatroom and Mark Ravenhill's Citizenship, directed by Anna Mackmin, will return prior to a national tour.

The National will celebrate the centenary of Laurence Olivier, the legendary actor who was its first director, with a selection of his films projected on to the Lyttelton fly tower between 19th and 23rd September; Olivier: A Celebratory Performance, which will comprise film, stage extracts, letters, reminiscences and readings, with a cast including Derek Jacobi, Robert Lindsay, Richard Attenborough, Corin and Vanessa Redgrave and Joan Plowright, in the Olivier on 23rd September, simultaneously projected on to the fly tower; and the unveiling of a statue by Angela Conner, of Olivier playing Hamlet, outside the National on the same night.

The musical Footloose will return to the West End at the Playhouse Theatre from 17th August, take a break from December to February while Tintin holds court, and then continue. The show is based on the 1984 film, about a big city boy who finds himself relocated to a small Bible belt town, where dancing is banned as the work of the Devil (along with fun in general), so his rock 'n' roll ways are frowned upon. It is a revised version of the 1998 Broadway original, with book by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, and songs by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow and others, and is directed and choreographed by Karen Bruce. The producers are Mark Goucher, Michael Rose, Tristan Baker and Jason Haigh-Ellery.

The Park: The Story Of The Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park by former artistic director David Conville, recently published by Oberon Books, celebrates the 75th anniversary of this great British summer institution. The Delacorte Theatre and its free Shakespeare performances in Central Park in New York may be bigger, starrier and better known world wide, but there is no theatre on earth that equals unique magic of this great (but intimate) venue, as the evening light gently fades and the stage lights gradually take over. Conville, with 45 years experience of the theatre knows its strengths, its weaknesses, and pretty much all the backstage stories that are worth knowing, and he has brought them together in a very entertaining and well illustrated biography. He charts the journey from the original inspiration to stage Shakespeare in the open air, when when for four performances, audiences sat in deck chairs on a slope facing a rostrum erected in front of some trees - A Midsummer Night's Dream will always be its signature production - to the current permanent structure and annual repertoire of a comedy, a tragedy, a musical and a children's production.

New York TheatreNet: The musical Lone Star Love (or The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Texas), an Off Broadway hit in 2004, is Broadway bound, with Randy Quaid, Robert Cuccioli and Dee Hoty leading the cast, directed and choreographed by Randy Skinner, opening at the Belasco Theatre on 3rd December. Set in the Wild West shortly after the Civil War, as Confederate 'Colonel John' Falstaff charms the wives of two wealthy cattle ranchers, with an eye on their husbands' land and money, it was inspired by Shakespeare's play, conceived and adapted by John L Haber, music and lyrics by Jack Herrick.

Penelope Keith will star in Oscar Wilde's 'trivial comedy for serious people' The Importance Of Being Earnest, directed by Peter Gill, which opens a prospective pre West End tour at the Theatre Royal Bath on 10th September.

The autumn season at the Theatre Royal Stratford East will include: There's Something About Simmy, written and directed by Pravesh Kumar, a comedy drama, with a hint of Bollywood, about arrainged marriages and pressures within Britain's Indian community, from 7th September, a Rifco Arts production; The Blacks ReMixed, a contemporary reworking of Jean Genet's 'play within a play' attacking European colonialism in Africa, translated by Robert David MacDonald, directed by Ultz and DJ Excalibah, from 12th October; and a new version of Cinderella, by Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman, directed by Kerry Michael, with choreography by Omar F Okai, from 1st December.

Veteran American singer and dancer Chita Rivera will bring her career retrospective cabaret show Chita Rivera Up Close to Wyndham's Theatre for two weeks, from 10th September. The producers Keith Turnipseed and Jeff Harnar.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, following their charity rehearsed reading performance of William Nicholson's Shadowlands last December, Charles Dance and Janie Dee, with John Standing, will star in a full scale production of the play, about the relationship of C S Lewis and Joy Gresham, directed by Jeremy Sams, which will open a prospective pre West End tour at the Arts Theatre Cambridge on 5th September. The producers are Brian Eastman and Andrew Welch with Richmond Theatre Productions.

The autumn season at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston includes Pedro Calderon de la Barca's The Great Theatre Of The World, adapted by Adrian Mitchell, in which the fate of man is played out in a surrealist carnival of live music and movement, directed by William Gaskill, currently playing; the British premiere of Tena Stivcic's Fragile, about the current Eastern European 'invasion' of Britain, directed by Michael Gieleta, from 4th September, a Cherub Theatre production; Mustapha Matura's Meetings, a comic look at heritage versus globalisation in Trinidad, directed by Dan Barnard, from 2nd October, a Big Hug Theatre Company production; the world premiere of Timberlake Wertenbaker's adaptation of Gabriela Preissova's Jenufa, charting the conflict between life and honour, pride and love, directed by Irina Brown, from 16th October, a co-production with Natural Perspective Theatre; and the English premiere of Hisashi Inoue's The Face Of Jizo, translated by Roger Pulvers, an exploration of love, survival and a search for happiness in the wake of the destruction of Hiroshima, directed by Togo Igawa, from 23rd October, an Ichiza Theatre Company production.