News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th August 1997

Reports are circulating that the government intends to cap the Arts Council's share of Lottery funding at 100m a year - less than half its current level - in order to divert money to pay for its health and social services election promises. The addition of a sixth "good cause" to the list of those sharing the pot means some reduction is inevitable. However, it seems that the Culture Department will attempt to penalise the arts rather than be accused of dipping its hand in the pockets of charities. It is now dubbed The People's Lottery, so the subtext is that the arts are still for the toffs. The Arts Council is denying that an actual figure has been set, but spin doctoring is obviously being employed to soften up the arts for an unwarranted major cut.

This is the year for African Macbeths. Hot on the heels of the Zulu Umabatha at Shakespeare's Globe, comes a Nigerian version Akogun at the Hackney Empire from 25th to 27th September.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is facing a financial crisis. The increased costs of its controversial touring policy mean that financial reserves have been exhausted, and it will be in deficit by the end of the next season. Artistic director Adrian Noble has announced that unless further financial support is forthcoming, subsequent seasons will have to be substantially reduced in scale. The RSC has always operated a "cry wolf" policy, expanding its operations to just beyond the limits of its finances, in the belief that money would be found from somewhere. Noble is still looking for a third London auditorium to house transfers of productions from the Swan. He hopes to use Collins Music Hall if plans to rebuild it come to fruition.

The Young Vic is holding a special evening for identical twins on 9th September, during its run of the RSC production of Comedy Of Errors. They are offering a two for one ticket deal and drinks after the performance. It should be quite a surreal experience if they manage a good turnout. The production runs from 2nd September to 11th October. Meanwhile The Young Vic has secured a 486,000 National Lottery Arts 4 Everyone grant, which will enable artistic director Tim Supple to establish a resident company. This is how the theatre operated when it was first established by Frank Dunlop. Hopefully we shall see a return to those glory days.

Auditions are being held next week for singers and dancers to take part in the eighth annual Michael Jackson day, to be staged at the Cambridge Theatre on 30th November. Participants must be able to perform a Michael Jackson song, but mysteriously no mention is made of plastic surgery, or supplying your own monkey.

On the Casting Couch: Ramon Tikaram (Ferdy in This Life) plays Judas and Glenn Carter plays Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar from 15th September; Angela Richards and Nicky Henson join Janie Dee and Alexander Hanson in Enter The Guardsman at the Donmar Warehouse; and Bugsy Malone at the Queens Theatre features Michael Sturgess, Elizabeth Avis, Stuart Piper, Paul Lowe and Sheridan Smith.

The Rumour Machine says: that Genista Mackintosh will return to her old job at the National Theatre - rather like Ernest Saunders miraculous recovery, once she left the Royal Opera House she was cured; that the National is among those interested in buying the Old Vic - presumably to transfer its more successful productions, rather than a wholesale move back to its roots; and that Emma Thompson may play Rosalind in As You Like It, directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse in December.The Rumour Machine grinds on.