News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th May 2004

The Royal Shakespeare Company has launched a new online archive, which features information about past productions at Stratford, not only by RSC (which was formed in 1961) but back to the opening of the first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1879. The archive offers information on actors, directors, designers and performances given for any production, and by August it should be linked to the Shakespeare Centre Library, so that books or videos relating to performances can be found directly. The archive can be accessed through the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust web site, which aims to be the world's definitive Shakespeare information resource, and can be found via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

The Royal Opera House is extending its free big screen live relays of opera and ballet productions this summer. On 7th June at 7.45pm, John Cranko's ballet Onegin will be shown in Trafalgar Square and Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets. On 19th June at 6pm, David McVicar's new production of Gounod's Faust will be shown in the Piazza Covent Garden. On 13th July at 7.30pm, Puccini's Tosca will be shown in the Piazza Covent Garden, Canary Wharf, Belfast Botanical Gardens, and Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest.

The 42nd City Of London Festival, running from 21st June to 13th July, once again has Trading Places as its theme, this year exploring the cultural exchange between London and Johannesburg, with appearances by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble and Sibongile Khumalo. The festival comprises the usual mixture of lunchtime, rush hour and evening events, with concerts of every kind of music, plus theatre, dance and films, in historic city buildings. Highlights include the Borodin Quartet performing the complete cycle of Beethoven String Quartets in the six Liberty Halls of the City Guilds; John Taverner's cantata Ultimos ritos in St Paul's Cathedral; and a series of events featuring the music of Haydn, Britten, Shostakovich and the American composer George Crumb; together with new commissioned works by composers from home and abroad. An accompanying programme of walks, talks, visits and exhibitions reveals hidden treasures of the City. Further information can be found on the COLF web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

The Pitlochry Festival Theatre season, which runs until 16th October, features two rarely performed works among its repertoire of six plays. Engaged, a farce by W S Gilbert (of 'and Sullivan' fame) is set near Gretna Green, where the locals have revived the rural economy by derailing trains and then offering bed and board to the wealthy passengers, one of whose life is complicated by being engaged to three different women simultaneously. The cast includes Conrad Hornby, Rory Murray, Victoria Balnaves, Francesca Dymond and Helen Logan. Edward Percy's The Shop On Sly Corner is a 1940s thriller, about the owner of a curio shop whose respectability hides a shady past, and when an employee finds out and threatens to reveal all, acts decisively to keep it hidden. It features Martyn James, Janet Michael, Guy Fearon and Helen Logan. Both plays are directed by John Durnin.

Goldsmiths College is holding a free combined open day and arts festival on 19th June from 10.00am to 4.00pm. The Open Day will include informal talks with tutors, sessions for prospective research students, exhibitions, and campus tours, providing information about undergraduate, postgraduate, adult education and short course study opportunities, across music, drama, dance and visual arts. The Festival Of Arts is a celebration of the creative and performing arts, with music of all kinds, drama and dance performances, design and photography exhibitions, and media screenings, involving the college and other local groups and organisations, plus a programme of children's activities. Further information can be found on the Goldsmiths web site via the link from the Training section of TheatreNet.

Alice Patten, Katherine Parkinson, Suzie Porter and Tim Steed star in a double bill of Anthony Minghella's Cigarettes And Chocolate and Hangup, two studies of contemporary life, directed by Tom Edmunds, at the King's Head Theatre from 14th June to 18th July. The producer is Sure Thing Productions.

Longborough Festival Opera, one of the 'alternative Glyndebournes', will feature two complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen in this year's season, running from 18th June to 31st July. It comprises the acclaimed shortened version prepared for the Birmingham City Opera by Jonathan Dove and Graham Vick of Wagner's Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung, all directed by Alan Privett; plus Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro, and a new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, both directed by Richard Studer. Further information can be found on the LFO web site via the link from the Dance, Opera, Orchestras & Choirs section of TheatreNet.

Euripides's Ion, in a new translation by Mike Poulton, plays at the Mercury Theatre Colchester from 10th to 26th June, directed by Michael Vale, in a production that includes shadow puppetry, illusion and live music. It is the tale of a lost boy who has never known his parents, and a Queen whose only child was stolen away at birth, who are thrown together by apparent chance. The cast comprises Ignatius Anthony, Katharine Barker, Ansuman Biswas, Toby Longworth, Andrew Maud, David Nicolle, Rosalind Philips, Denise Pitter, Claire Ross, Shuna Snow and Katy Stephens.

Scottish comedy enthusiasts can enter a competition to fill one of the three civilian places on the judging panel for the Perrier Awards. Anyone who thinks they can cope with 200 hours of comedy in the last two weeks of August can apply to join the seven industry professionals who will choose the winners of the 24th season of the UK's premier comedy awards. The chosen panellist will receive accommodation, travel expenses, a goody bag and free tickets for all the comedy events they can survive. The closing date for entries is 18th June. Full details of how to take part can be found on the Perrier Comedy Awards web site via the link from the Organisations section of TheatreNet.

STAR - the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers - has been invited by the Office of Fair Trading to bid for official recognition, giving it the power to grant legitimate ticket sellers a seal of approval. This would transform the organisation from a trade association of reputable agents who agree to abide by a certain trading framework, into something like the travel trade body ABTA, with a nationally recognised code of conduct that guarantees the standards of its members behaviour. This would be a major step towards helping ticket buyers to be certain that they are dealing with legitimate agents and avoid falling prey to ticket touts.

The Rumour Machine says: that Sheila Hancock will star in Bill Macllwraith's black comedy The Anniversary, about a family reunion from hell, opening at Liverpool Playhouse in September, directed by Denis Lawson (she was in the original production as a juve - now she's playing the matriarch); that Natasha Richardson will star in a Roundabout Theatre Company production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire in New York next March; and that Liam Neeson will star in Camelot on Broadway in the autumn of next year, possibly with Edward Hall directing. The Rumour Machine grinds on.