News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th May 1999

LIFT 99 - London International Festival of Theatre presents cutting edge companies from all over the world from 14th June to 4th July. The extraordinary De La Guarda, hit of LIFT 97, which is currently selling out at the Roundhouse, is typical of the untypical fayre on offer. Events include: from Italy, Giulio Cesare, a reinterpretation of Shakespeare, employing suspended statues, industrial detritus, toy animals and a real horse; from South Africa, Ubu And The Truth Commission mixing actors and puppets, fact and fiction; Who Can Sing A Song To Unfrighten Me?, a 24 hour international storytelling marathon; and Urban Dream Capsule - four Australians living in Arding and Hobbs department store window for a fortnight. Full details are on the LIFT web site via a link from the TheatreNet Festivals section.

The New Ambassadors Theatre season, which opens this week, is already adding further productions to its schedule. Lee Hall's award winning radio play Spoonface Steinberg, performed by Kathryn Hunter, will open on 5th January. It is about an autistic girl terminally ill with cancer, who is introduced to opera by her doctor, and becomes captivated by the music and the divas who die so well. Shared Experience will return in the Spring with Brecht's Mother Courage And Her Children.

The Right Size Theatre Company is presenting a regional tour of its comedy Do You Come Here Often? Sean Foley and Hamish McColl's show, which revolves around two men stuck in a bathroom for 25 years, was a hit at the 1997 Edinburgh Fringe. It transferred to the West End for a season, which did not do as well as was expected commercially, but won the Olivier Best Entertainment Award. The tour is a warm up for at September New York opening Off Broadway.

The Cannizaro Park Open Air Theatre Festival runs from 10th July to 8th August. The programme includes Opera, with Mozart's Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte and Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado; Shakespeare with The Merchant Of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream; plus other music and comedy events.

The New York Post reports there are plans by the producers of Smokey Joe's Café to build a $25m Broadway Hall of Fame in the Lyceum Theatre on West 45th Street. The main attraction would be a live 50 minute show called The Spirits of Broadway, based on the idea that ghosts of legendary Broadway show characters haunt the theatre. Performances would run throughout the day, and the museum would also include a multimedia Walk Of Fame, and a Broadway memorabilia shop. The prospectus claims that the developers have secured a 25-year lease on the Lyceum, which currently houses the Tony nominated play The Lonesome West. However, the chairman of the Shubert Organisation, which owns the theatre, says that they have not been approached.

The Hub, Edinburgh's new Festival Centre opens its doors on 5th July. Created in the former Highland Tolbooth, a city landmark, near the Castle and across the road from the Scottish Parliament building, it will provide a year round focus for the Festival. There will be a ticket centre for the Festival and other events in the city, education facilities, new administration offices, a specialist shop and a café. Augustus Pugin originally designed the Centre's main hall in the 1840s, and the interior is similar to his work on the House of Lords. The new Festival Club will be based there, and it will be available throughout the year for rehearsals and functions.

Hilary Strong, former Edinburgh Festival Fringe director, has been appointed executive director of Greenwich Theatre. It went dark early last year when London Arts Board funding was withdrawn, but Local Authority funding has been doubled to enable the theatre to reopen. However, it will in future be a receiving, rather than producing house, and Strong will finding difficulty in sourcing shows, because of the unusual nature of the stage. The first production, at the end of the year, will be Dick Whittington, staged by Theatre Royal Stratford East, which is currently closed for refurbishment.

The new musical Spend, Spend, Spend which is opening at the Piccadilly Theatre in October, following a season at Theatre Royal Plymouth, is currently looking for Angels. The Investment section of TheatreNet gives you a whistle stop tour of what is involved in becoming an Angel. It also has a link to information about the show, which tells the rags to riches to rags again story of Viv Nicholson. When she became the biggest pools winner ever known in 1962, she coined the title phrase, and blew the money in a couple of years. Jeremy Sams is now directing.

Once again Nicholas Hawkesmoor's Christ Church hosts the Spitalfields Festival from 9th to 30th June. The programme includes a wide range of music, from a thousand years ago with Gothic Voices and Ensemble Sarband; through Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel and Bach; to Stravinsky and Shostakovich - and even Ashanti drummers. There are daytime and evening concerts, plus walks, talks and exhibitions about the Spitalfields area, and the restoration of Christ Church, one of the great baroque churches of Europe.

Broadway's Autumn schedule continues to have a strong British flavour. Saturday Night Fever already has a substantial advance, although it does not open at the Minskoff Theatre until 21st October; Putting It Together, the often revised Sondheim compilation show, (a Side By Side By Sondheim II) originally expected to open in London, finally hits the Great White Way with Carol Burnett at the Barrymore Theatre on 28th October; Dame Edna: The Royal Tour opens at the Booth Theatre also during October; and David Suchet and Michael Sheen repeat their roles in Peter Hall's production of Amadeus, with an American supporting cast, in a yet to be announced Shubert Organisation theatre, opening on 16th December.

The Rumour Machine says: that Floyd Collins, soon to be seen at The Bridewell Theatre, is Stephen Sondheim's favourite musical - music and lyrics are by Adam Guettel his godson; and that Tim Burton is planning to make a film of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. The Rumour Machine grinds on.