News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th April 2006

The 112th season of the BBC Henry Wood Promenade Concerts takes place at the Royal Albert Hall between 14th July and 9th September. The world's greatest classical music festival centres on 70 main concerts (at least one every evening) with consistently low ticket prices, including 500 'promming' tickets at only 5 each, available every day 30 minutes before the doors open. In addition, there is a series of lunch time Chamber Music Proms at the Cadogan Hall, Late Night Proms starting around 10pm, Pre-Prom and Background talks at the RAH and the Royal Geographical Society, and weekend afternoon films at the RGS. All concerts are broadcast live on Radio 3, with many televised on BBC4, and available via audio and video webcasts. Mozart and Shostakovich dominate this year's programme, marking the 250th and 100th anniversaries of their births. Among the premieres will be the sixth instalment of one of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches, completed by Anthony Payne from fragments discovered in the library of the Royal School of Church Music. The Last Night will include the 11th outdoor Proms In The Park, with 35,000 people in Hyde Park, and simultaneous concerts running in Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester and Swansea. All five events culminate in live big screen link ups with the Royal Albert Hall. Further information can be found on the BBC Proms web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

Edward Hardwicke, Clive Mantle, Michael Praed and Joe Shaw star in the British premiere of Brian Stewart's Killing Castro, directed by David Giles, which launches a national tour at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford on 23rd May. The farcical comedy tells the story of the CIA's attempts to come up with a plan to assasinate Fidel Castro during a visit to the United Nations in 1960. It is the first production in a partnership between Richard Jordan Productions and Theatre Royal Haymarket Productions.

While it's still in business, the Theatre Museum is presenting Inside Theatreland, a series of events, including films and live performance, accompanied by interviews, talks and debates, aimed at giving a deeper understanding of London's theatre scene. There are three programmes running monthly: Cabaret Confidential, with Paul L Martin presenting established and new performers on Thursday evenings; West End Now, with Al Senter introducing panel discussions about how the West End operates, early on Thursday evenings; and Late Fridays, celebrating musical theatre, featuring on a particular show and its writers; plus a weekly Sunday Set, with workshops, discussions and masterclasses, mostly focussing on the work of a single distinguished theatre practitioner. Further information can be found on the TM web site via the link from Information in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The People's Jesters: 20th Century British Comedians, by Eric Midwinter, recently published by Third Age Press, is a comprehensive survey of British comedians, from the days of Music Hall to the end of television variety. It is meticulously researched, covering the full comic tradition, looking at the styles of the performers, their material and songs, and how they varied their acts for different regional audiences. It features not only the headline acts, such as Sandy Powell, Will Hay, Arthur Askey and Ken Dodd, comediennes from Nellie Wallace to Victoria Wood, radio stars like as Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers, comic dames including Old Mother Riley and Danny La Rue, and double acts such as Baker and Douglas and Morecambe and Wise, but also the lesser known names, who were the backbone of the profession.

This year's Garsington Park Opera season, one of the 'alternative Glyndebournes', running from 10th June to 11th July, continues the policy of combining favourite operas with discoveries of little known works. It comprises Der Stein der Weisen, by Mozart and others, libretto by Emanuel Schikanader, with Leigh Melrose, Teuta Koco, Ashley Catling, Amy Freston, Iain Paton, Michael Druiett and Damian Thantrey, directed by John Cox; Rimsky-Korsakov's Mayskaya Noch, with Peter Wedd, Antonia Sotgiu, Stuart Kale, Paul Reeves, Clarissa Meek, Michelle Walton and Darren Jeffrey, directed by Olivia Fuchs; and Donizetti's Don Pasquale, with Conal Coad, Majella Cullagh, Riccardo Novaro and Riccardo Botta, directed by Daniel Slater. Further information can be found on the GPO web site via the link from Dance & Opera in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The recent touring production of Philip King's See How They Run, directed by Douglas Hodge, will transfer to the Duchess Theatre, opening on 29th June. Nancy Carroll and Nick Rowe will join the previous cast members Jo Stone-Fewings, Hattie Morahan, Simon Wilson, Nicholas Blane, Adrian Fear, Chris Macdonnell and Natalie Grady. The classic British farce is set in a village vicarage in 1942, involving the vicar, his wayward former actress wife, their incompetent maid, a local spinster and an escaped German prisoner of war. It will be presented by Matthew Byam Shaw, Nica Burns, Max Weitzenhoffer and Ian Lenagan.

The Old Vic Theatre is reprising its weekend marathon 24 Hour Play: New Voices, when 6 plays are written, rehearsed and performed within 24 hours, by new theatre writers, actors, directors and producers. As before, a pool of 100 will be chosen from initial applicants, which after further assessment will be reduced to 50 participants. They will then have the opportunity to attend workshops, and see how the professionals go through the process on 7th/8th October. Finally, teams of writers, actors, directors and producers will each create a 10 minute play, beginning work at 9pm on Saturday 4th November, and performing it at 8pm the following evening. All participants should have professional experience in their chosen field, be aged between 18 and 25 years, and live within Greater London. Applications must be received by 9th June. Further information and an application form can be found on the Old Vic web site via the link from London Venues in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The latest 'new broom' innovation at the open air Shakespeare's Globe will be a roof. It will form part of William Dudley's design for the opening production, Titus Andronicus, with the aim of creating a 'dark and funereal setting' for the play that includes mutilation, rape and murder. Dudley claims to have been inspired by the valerium at the Colosseum in Rome, a cooling system created with netting, canvas and ropes, designed to catch the breeze and direct it on to the audience.

Buxton Festival, centred on the spectacular Opera House designed by Frank Matcham, running from 7th to 23rd July, continues the twin themes of opera and literature. Opera highlights include a new festival productions of Bizet's The Fair Maid Of Perth, Gluck's Armide, Telemann's Pimpinone, Britten's Noye's Fludde, and a new work by Laurence Roman, Isabella And The Pot Of Basil, adapted from Boccaccio's story of murderous intrigue and forbidden love, plus The Opera Group with Shostakovich's The Nose, Opera Theatre Company with Montiverde's The Coronation Of Poppea, and Classical Opera Company with Mozart's Apollo And Hyacinth. Other performance events include Independent Ballet Wales with The Canterbury Tales, plus concerts and recitals covering a wide range of music. The Literary Series boasts appearances by a variety of writers, broadcasters and personalities, including Gloria Hunniford, Prunella Scales, Anna Massey, Ian McEwan, Hilary Spurling, Louis de Bernieres, Roy Strong, Robert Winston, Edna and Denis Healey and Kate Adie. Further information can be found on the Buxton Festival web site via the link from Festivals in the Links section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that John Caird and Andre Previn are writing an opera based on the 1945 film Brief Encounter, the stiff upper lip romance set on a railway station; that Gavin Lee will be the only British performer to recreate his role (chimney sweep Bert) in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins; and that despite the vitriolic reviews for Lestat, Elton John wants to write a stage musical based on the 1988 film Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, which combines the stories of three women facing crises. The Rumour Machine grinds on.