News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th August 2003

Edinburgh Fringe Report: As predicted, ticket sales broke the 1m barrier for the very first time, clocking up 1,184,738 admissions, worth 9,386,003 - a 21% increase on last year - with over half the tickets bought by Edinburgh residents. Of the 1541 shows available, the fastest seller was Johnny Vegas at the Stand Comedy Club, which sold out in 18 minutes, while the top seller was Ross Noble's Unrealtime, (opening in London this week) closely followed by 12 Angry Men, with the jurors played by comedians, which may also have a West End transfer. The San Francisco based Riot Group's production of Pugilist Specialist, about American soldiers on the hunt for evil in foreign lands, was named First of the Fringe Firsts - the overall winner of the 15 shows which received an award from The Scotsman. Henry Adams The People Next Door, a black comedy set in a multi cultural council estate gripped by fear of terrorism and anti-Muslim paranoia, is the second production from the Traverse Theatre to head south, playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from 4th September to 4th October.

Fifty Years Of Glittering Gowns, a gala charity auction of 50 extravagant dresses belonging to Shirley Bassey, will be held at Christie's Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, at 8.15pm on 18th September, with viewing from 13th September onwards. The spectacular creations, which span her entire career, are mostly designs by Douglas Darnell, but also include gowns by Yves Saint Laurent, Zandra Rhodes, Sara Perceval, Bruce Oldfield and Isabell Kristensen. Many of the ensembles have an accompanying coat, and crystals, sequins and ostrich feathers are much in evidence. Pictures of all the gowns can be found on the Christie's web site via the link from the Emporium section of TheatreNet - and bids can be made online.

Highlights of the Barbican's BITE:04 season in the new year include The Canadian Stage Company's The Overcoat, a comedic piece of physical theatre based on Nikolai Gogol's short stories and set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich; Moving Africa, contemporary dance from South Africa, Madagascar and Burkina Faso; the return of The Tibilisi Marionette Theatre's Battle Of Stalingrad, played out in 14 scenes on a desktop sized stage by five puppeteers, together with their new show The Autumn Of My Springtime; Box Story, inspired by the myth of Pandora, presented by performer Bobby Baker, composer Jocelyn Pook and a virtual choir of nine; the return of Ronnie Burkett's Theatre of Marionnettes with Provenance; and Batsheva's Dance Company.

Ken Ludwig, who wrote the new book that turned the old Gershwin musical Girl Crazy into the Tony Award winning Crazy For You, is working a new musical with an original story using songs by Irving Berlin, to be called Let Yourself Go!. A story of mistaken identity with a twist, it has a showbiz theme, and is set in California in the 1940s, following the fortunes of a girl who wants to be a singer and dancer in the movies, and boy who is attempting to write a musical screenplay. The final score will contain around 16 to 20 numbers, and Ludwig has Berlin's repertoire of about 1400 songs to choose from. There will be a reading of the show in New York in December.

The autumn season at the Soho Theatre includes: Kay Adshead's Animal, a dark tale of humanity's struggle for progress, with Fiona Bell, Mark Monero and Richard Owens, directed by Lisa Goldman, from 4th to 27th September; Tariq Ali's The Illustrious Corpse, an agit-prop satire about a government cover up, with Russell Dixon, Beverley Longhurst, Kristin Milward and Trevor Thomas, directed by Iqbal Khan, from 8th to 27th September; Mark Norfolk's Wrong Place, about the family of a black youth in trouble with the police, with Geoffrey Burton, Larrington Walker and Mark Theodore, directed by Abigail Morris, from 2nd to 25th October; Gilt, by Stephen Greenhorn, Rona Munro and Isabel Wright, following seven characters whose world's thread together to create a contemporary mosaic about money and love, directed by Zinnie Harris, from 3rd to 8th November; and Lear's Daughters, an urban fairytale leading through a maze of betrayal, love and jealousy, written by the Women's Theatre Group and Elaine Feinstein, directed by David KS Tse, from 17th to 27th November.

The Royal Festival Hall has announced its next Classic International season, bringing the world's greatest orchestras to London between 7th October and 21st June. It includes performances by the Tchaikovsky Symphony of Moscow Radio, Vienna Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Russian National, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Rotterdam Philharmonic, and Zurich Opera. Further information can be found on the South Bank Centre web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

Grin Up North is an exhibition at the Museum of Lancashire in Preston, which celebrates the rich comedy heritage of the north west, through the great comedians past and present, and the characters they created. The display includes original props, costumes, memorabilia, posters, recordings, archive film and photographs, ranging from Ken Dodd's tickling stick to a replica statue of Eric Morecambe. It looks at the real people and situations behind the characters portrayed by the likes of Les Dawson, Hylda Baker and George Formby; demonstrates how local comics first reached a national audience over the airwaves with archive material featuring Al Read, Jimmy Clitheroe and Albert Modley; and commemorates nearly 100 years of saucy postcard design and publication by the Yorkshire based company Bamforth.

Playwright David Hare is currently engaged in writing two very different screenplays. The first is an adaptation of The Corrections, the novel by Jonathan Franzen, which Stephen Daldry will direct. The second is Alexander The Great, which will star Leonardo Di Caprio and Nicole Kidman, with Hare working from an initial draft by the director Baz Luhrmann.

And Finally . . . Many people have reservations about calling some 'serious' contemporary orchestral works music (thinking that noise would be a better definition) and now it seems that our friends in Brussels are (as usual) putting their foot down with a firm hand. The current legal limit of exposure to noise in the work place is 90dB, but the sound level in the middle of a symphony orchestra playing a big classical piece at treble forte has been measured at 98dB, with the brass section peaking at 140dB. A new EU directive will reduce the maximum permitted level to 85dB, and because of the way sound is measured, this is a drop of 20%. So as the regulations average noise levels out over the working week, future concert programmes may have to be chosen by volume rather than melody. Whether there will be a requirement for the 1812 overture to be played with the percussionist holding up a card saying BOOM is not yet known.