News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th September 2006

Despite the outcry from both the public and the profession, the Victoria and Albert Museum has announced that the Theatre Museum is likely to close for good at the end of this year, after the proposed partnership between the V&A and the Royal Opera House fell through due to lack of funding. It would seem that the V&A were only prepared for the Theatre Museum to remain if someone else paid for it. The V&A is now reverting to its original proposal to return the theatrical collection to its base in South Kensington, some of which will be displayed there in a new gallery, together with touring displays (not necessarily suitable for fragile items like costumes) and education activities.

As the picnic hampers and travel rugs are packed away for another year, Glyndebourne Touring Opera takes to the road, from Plymouth to Stoke on Trent until December, following a launch mini season of performances on its home turf from 10th to 28th October. The repertoire comprises: this season's new production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, directed by Nicholas Hytner, the revival of Stephen Lawless's production of Strauss's Die Fledermaus, and a new production of Britten's The Turn Of The Screw, directed by Jonathan Kent.

The Society Of London Theatre is looking for 14 enthusiastic and knowledgeable theatregoers to join one of the judging panels for next year's Laurence Olivier Awards. Panellists will receive a pair of free tickets for all shows playing in the West End between 1st January and 31st December. There are four panels assessing Theatre, Opera, Dance and Affiliates (covering work at the Almeida, Bloomsbury, Greenwich, Hampstead, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Court Upstairs, Soho, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Tricycle and Young Vic). The Theatre panel is expected to attend about 60 play performances or 20 musicals, Opera and Affiliates about 20 each, and Dance about 40. The application involves listing all the productions seen in the last twelve months, along with a 150 word critique of one of them. Applications can be made online on the SOLT web site, which can be found via the link from Organisations in the Links section of TheatreNet. Alternatively there are leaflets in all West End theatres. The deadline is 17th November.

The autumn season at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston includes Broadway In The Shadows, written and directed by David Salter, based on the works of O Henry and Al Jennings, in which an inmate in an Ohio Penitentiary keeps prisoners spirits up with stories of love and sacrifice amongst the tenements and theatres of Manhattan, with Adrian Beamont, Ako Mitchell, Helen Hurd, Kenneth Gilbert, Lara Stubbs, Morgan Deare, Saul Jaffe, Ted Van Griethuysen, opening on 10th October, produced by Word Of Mouth Theatre Company, Treatment Theatre UK and Grand Theatre de Luxembourg; Keith Dewhurst's King Arthur, an irreverent epic featuring live music, which treads a path between history and mythology in examining the Arthurian legend, directed by John Terry and Mike Bartlett, opening on 10th November, produced by Shapeshifter and Berwick House Productions; Ditch Digger, written and directed by Nathan Osgood, about a runaway boy stuck in the Mojave Desert haunted by a voice in his head, opening on 21st November; and Alexander Ostrovsky's A Family Affair, translated by Nick Dear, a comedy about greed, corruption and the desire to climb the social ladder whatever the cost, directed by Serdar Bilis, opening on 12th December.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust offers Travelling Fellowships to enable British citizens to acquire knowledge and experience abroad in their chosen professional field. Theatre, ballet and opera is one of the categories for the 2007 awards, and the Trust is keen to receive applications from practitioners of all kinds both on and off stage. The scheme provides a contribution to individual travel and research projects, generally involving 4 to 8 weeks abroad, but does not cover attendance of courses at academic institutions. In 2006 the trust made about 100 awards to fellows whose ages ranged from 18 to 68. The closing date for submissions is 19th October. Further information and an online application form can be found on the WCMT web site via the link from Organisations in the Links section of TheatreNet.

On The Casting Couch at the Almeida Theatre: Eleanor David, Lloyd Hutchinson, Matthew Marsh, Katherine Parkinson, Adie Allen, Christina Cole, Simon Kassianides and Orlando Seale will star in the Charlotte Jones's The Lightning Play, opening on 17th November; and Eileen Atkins, Elaine Cassidy, Aiden McArdle, Ian McElhinney and Imelda Staunton will star in Frank McGuiness's There Came A Gipsy Riding, opening on 18th January.

EMI have begun releasing a series of CDs of classic live stage performance recordings on its Classic For Pleasure label, including Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright in The Entertainer, Alan Bates and Donald Pleasence in The Caretaker, and John Gielgud, Edith Evans and Ceilia Johnson in The Importance Of Being Earnest.

Consuming Passions: Leisure And Pleasure In Victorian Britain by Judith Flanders, recently published by HarperPress, covers the full gamut of activities: holidays, shopping, fairs, art, books, newspapers and sport, as well as music, theatres, music halls and peep-shows, as the leisure phenomenon entered the lives of the nation. The chapters on theatres and entertainment reveal how little distinction there was at that time between what is now considered high and low art: a performance of 'the Scottish play' attended by Queen Victoria was part of a bill that included a 'lion drama' with wild animals roaming the stage; Byron's poem Mazeppa was rejigged as an equestrian spectacular, incorporating a wild stallion and a cavalry charge; and at the Surrey Zoological Gardens, visitors could listen to Mozart or Beethoven symphonies in between watching the animals feeding time and a firework display. The cultures didn't diverge until after the First World War. An insight into a time when entertainment was entertainment, and a night out was a night out - simpler in some ways, yet much, much more for your money.

Holiday on Ice is presenting two shows in Britain in the next few months. Peter Pan On Ice, telling J M Barrie's legendary story, will open a tour at Crystal Palace National Sports Stadium on 9th November, starring Julien Bouchard, Natalie Cunningham, Trevor Buttenham and Carla Wood, directed and choreographed by Robin Cousins. Fantasy, a show that explores the idea of dreams around the world, will open a tour on 11th January at the Brighton Centre in Brighton, directed by Anthony Van Laast, and choreographed by Robin Cousins. Among the company of 49 star skaters will be Daniela Keller, Giorgia Carrossa, Anastasia Ratkovskaia, Nina Ulanova and Martin Simecek, and Fiona Zaldua and Dmitry Sukhanov.

The Rumour Machine says: that Billy Elliot, will open in Australia at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney next January, with Broadway to follow in the autumn; that I'm The King Of The Castle, Susan Hill's gothic tale of warring schoolboys, is being adapted for the stage by Benet Catty and will premiere early next year; and that Ron Howard will direct a film version of Peter Morgan's current Donmar Warehouse hit Frost/Nixon, following a yet to be confirmed Broadway transfer. The Rumour Machine grinds on.