News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 28th September 1998

A very successful marketing campaign during its Edinburgh Festival and Bush Theatre seasons, sees the National Theatre of Brent's production of Love Upon The Throne transfer to the Comedy Theatre from 10th November to 31st January. Written by and starring Patrick Barlow (aka Desmond Oliver Dingle), with Raymond Box, the show purports to tell the true story of the courtship and marriage of Charles and Diana. It is directed by Martin Duncan and presented by Bright Ltd.

The latest casualty of Gerry Robinson's slash and burn policy at the Arts Council looks like being the touring department. In future the department's responsibilities would be incorporated into the work of individual artforms. It is expected that this would result in the current director and drama chief being made redundant, thus removing from any position of influence, two of the last remaining experienced performing arts practitioners. The Council's cultural diversity unit is also likely to be under threat.

Livent, the Canadian/American producer has appointed Todd Haimes, currently artistic director of New York's Roundabout Theatre Company, as its new artistic director. The company is reviewing its financial structure in the light of recently discovered accounting regularities, and is looking for a clean slate write off of previously overvalued assets. It maintains that all current creative plans will go ahead, under a strictly cost controlled regime. Projects include Parade, a new musical co-produced with Lincoln Centre, Fosse: A Celebration In Song And Dance, a revival of Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, The Suessical, a musical based on the stories of Dr Seuss by Eric Idle, and a musical adaptation of the 1957 film The Sweet Smell Of Success. Livent will not be reconsidering its decision to postpone indefinitely the London production of Ragtime

Shelagh Stephenson's science and ethics play An Experiment With An Air Pump, which received a highly acclaimed premiere at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester earlier this year, will open at the Hampstead Theatre on 8th October, with Barbara Flynn and David Horovitch. Meanwhile south of the river, Alison Steadman and Julia Sawalha will star in Stephenson's bruising comedy of family life The Memory Of Water at the Churchill Theatre Bromley from 13th October. Both these productions are looking for a West End home.

Delfont Mackintosh Theatres is considering changing the name of the Prince of Wales Theatre to the Delfont, in honour of the late Lord Delfont, whose base it wasfrom the 1950's. As a name change cannot take place while a show is either running or booking, it is expected that it would happen in January, at the end of the already announced return of Fame. Delfont Mackintosh owns the two Princes theatres - Wales and Edward. If one is renamed Delfont, what price the other becoming Mackintosh? I hope we're not going to end up like Broadway, where they seem to change names regularly, as the namees go in and out of fashion.

On The Casting Couch: Louise Davidson, Nick Holder, Matt Rawle, Sheila Reid, Jenna Russell, Sheridan Smith and Sophie Thompson will be in John Crowley's revival of Sondheim's Into The Woods at the Donmar Warehouse, opening on 16th November. Maria Friedman (replacing Ruthie Henshall), Peter Davison and Diane Langton will join Chicago at the Adelphi, also in November. Henshall is awaiting American Actors Equity approval for her to join the Broadway cast, as her former partner Ute Lemper did last week. Lily Savage is pencilled to replace Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan in Annie at the Victoria Palace in December. A bit early for that sort of desperate gimmick I would have thought.

We are always being told that American theatre marketing is superior to ours, well here are a few of their tricks: Various theatres around the country hold special singles nights - well it's upmarket from a bar. The Playhouse Theatre Cleveland offers a babysitting rebate to parents who buy a season ticket. The New York City Ballet took photographs of children who saw its Nutcracker, arm in arm with dancers, and gave the photos free to parents who bought a pair of tickets for another performance. Centre Stage in Baltimore holds gay and lesbian evenings, and pub nights when students are given free beer, plus vouchers that enable them to come back for free if they bring a paying adult. Truly all human life is there.

Having spent a week enjoying the delights of Hong Kong, I found that its cultural scene may have both a warning and a lesson for us. The warning is that while there are subsidised state of the art venues, there is no product. It seemed home from home, with Stomp dropping in before its London season, and Ennio Marchetto after his. With virtually no indigenous production, they operate almost entirely as touring venues, hosting runs limited to between one night and one week. This could be the future for our regional producing theatres if current government arts policies continue unchecked. The lesson is how their training is run compared with ours. The Academy of Performing Arts complex houses a lyric theatre, drama theatre, studio theatre, concert hall, television studio - even an outdoor theatre, and all are equipt to the highest standards. It capitalises on these facilities by operating as a public venue, hiring out commercially between student productions. The aforementioned Stomp and Ennio Marchetto are appearing there. Perhaps a lottery bid coupled with donations from ex-student movie superstars could be a way for our performing arts schools firstly to upgrade their facilities, and secondly to provide much needed additional income.