News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th March 2002

On the orders of the landlords, bailiffs have seized the assets of the Players Theatre company, and evicted it from its premises in The Arches under Charing Cross station, in a long running dispute over unpaid rent. The Players is believed to have accumulated debts of over 500,000, and has been through a series of organisational wrangles recently. Director (and resident Music Hall chairman) Domonic Le Foe had been endeavouring to set up a new management company to find a way out of its problems. The Players has been in existence for 65 years, most of which have been spent in theatres in The Arches, presenting Late Joys, a fortnightly Music Hall programme, together with a traditional Victorian pantomime.

Details of the new Covent Garden season, the first for Antonio Pappano as music director of the Royal Opera, and first full season for Ross Stretton as director of the Royal Ballet has been announced. Opera highlights include: the world premiere of Sophie's Choice by Nicholas Maw based on William Styron's novel, starring Angelika Kirchschlager, directed by Trevor Nunn, conducted by Simon Rattle; and new productions of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos directed by Christof Loy, Berg's Wozzeck directed by Keith Warner, and Puccini's Madame Butterfly directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshie Leiser. Ballet highlights include: new works by David Bintley and Christopher Wheeldon; and first showings of Mark Morris's Gong, Angelin Preljacoj's Le Parc, and Jiri Kylian's Sinfonietta. Full details can be found on the Royal Opera House web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport sub committee has backed the principle of Adrian Noble's controversial plans to demolish the historic Grade II* listed Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford upon Avon, and replace it with a 'waterfront theatre village'. However, the committee considers that the figure of 100m quoted for the project will be insufficient to carry it out, and has asked for more detailed information, before it can finally make a commitment. The Arts Council has agreed to back the scheme with 50m if the RSC finds the remainder. Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat's proposed replacement is an adaptable 'one room' space with just 1050 seats - downsizing the potential audience by one third. The RSC is expected to apply for planning permission in the summer, so now is the time to protest to Stratford District Council, English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society.

Peter Bowles is to star in a 'prior to West End' production of Anthony Shaffer's modern classic thriller Sleuth at the Theatre Royal Windsor from 11th to 29th June. Elijah Moshinsky will direct, and the producer is Bill Kenwright.

For a playwright who has been dead for thirty years, Noel Coward is having an amazing number of new works premiered. Long Island Sound, adapted by Coward from his short story about an Englishman's observations of the New York rich in their country homes, was considered too American for the West End in 1947 when it was written. Simon Jones will star in the Off Broadway production that opens at The American Theatre of Actors on 13th May. The 9 year old TACT specialises in staging neglected or rarely produced plays, and was responsible for this season's surprise hit musical Urinetown which moved to Broadway at the new Henry Miller's Theatre.

The 10th Hampton Court Palace Festival runs from 13th to 22nd June with a series of prestige events in the specially designed theatre built in the Base Court of the Palace. Artists taking part include Bryn Terfel, Jools Holland, Paco Pena, Kiri Te Kanawa and Michael Ball, with State Trumpeters and Beating Retreat in a firework finale. The annual Music On A Summer Evening series of outdoor concerts at Kenwood House, Marble Hill House and Audley End House will run at weekends between 6th July and 31st August, with everything from Montserrat Caballe to Bjorn Again.

The Theatrical Guild exists to provide help to all who are connected with the legitimate theatre - backstage, on stage and front of house. It gives financial aid to people unable to manage through ill health or old age, and also works closely with other theatre charities, striving to provide a practical support system for those in need. The Guild has just launched a new poster and leaflet to help raise awareness of its services, and the need to raise the resources to provide them. Anyone who would like to help, either by distributing the new print, or by direct means, can find details on the Guild web site via the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

Elmhurst, the dance and performing arts school based in Surrey, has formed an association with Birmingham Royal Ballet, and is to relocate to Edgbaston in Birmingham in 2004. Its new premises will include a 350 seater theatre and workshop, eight dance studios and an exercise centre, plus boarding accommodation. BRB director David Bintley will become Elmhurst's artistic director, and graduating students will be able to be apprenticed to the company. Elmshurst will drop performing arts courses and concentrate entirely on classical ballet training.

The New York City Mayor's office scheme that purchased $2.5m of tickets to Broadway shows to help the post 11th September situation, has borne fruit. The tickets were given away free to rescue workers and families of victims, and used in promotions at stores, restaurants and cultural institutions to generate consumer spending in Manhattan. Six months later, the League of American Theatres and Producers has been able to return $1m to the City, on behalf of commercial theatre, after a better than anticipated winter. The funds will be re-circulated to not for profit arts organisations in New York, whose income has not bounced back the way that Broadway's has.

The Rumour Machine says: that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Simon Cowell are planning a Pop Idol style version of Joseph . . . auditioning via audience voting - so television will demean not just performers but casting directors as well; that Paul Rhys is to play Chekhov's Ivanov at the National in September, directed by Katie Mitchell; that Elaine Stritch will bring her current one woman Broadway show At Liberty to London in the autumn: and that Penelope Wilton will star in Noel Coward's Hay Fever, as the mother of an eccentric family of actors, later this year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . English National Ballet's new production of The Nutcracker next December will be designed by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, working on his first ballet. Inspired by events in Afghanistan, the soldiers will apparently be in camouflage, and the mice will be wearing gasmasks carrying guns - it's never too early to indulge the Christmas spirit.