News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 29th December 2006

Elsewhere, it is customary at this time to look back over the year, and review triumphs and failures. Well we don't do that because we're more interested in the future than the past, so the tradition here is to look forward to what will happen in the West End - all based on hard, solid, um, er, rumour.

Neil LaBute's Bash, a trilogy of plays about 'beautiful people doing awful things', with Juliet Rylance and David Sturzaker, directed by Tamara Harvey, will open at Trafalgar Studios 2 . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company's transfer season of Stratford productions at the Novello Theatre will continue with Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter in Antony And Cleopatra, directed by Gregory Doran . . . the all male Propeller Theatre Company's productions of The Taming Of The Shrew and Twelfth Night, directed by Edward Hall, will play in repertoire at the Old Vic Theatre . . . Kristin Scott Thomas and Mackenzie Crook will star in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, in an adaptation by Christopher Hampton, directed by Ian Rickson, at the Royal Court Theatre . . . Frank McGuinness's There Came A Gypsy Riding, in which a secret is exposed in a family gathering at a remote holiday home in the west of Ireland, with Eileen Atkins, Elaine Cassidy, Aidan McArdle, Ian McElhinney and Imelda Staunton, directed by Michael Attenborough, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, with Fiona Shaw buried in a mound of sand, under the direction of Deborah Warner, will open at the National Theatre . . . and Vanya On Cable Street, David Mamet's reworking of Anton Chekov's Uncle Vanya, with Rachel Stirling, Colin Stinton, Ronan Vibert, Catherine Cusack, Philip Voss, Lucinda Curtis, Michael Gunn and Marlene Sidaway, directed by Hugh Fraser, will open at Wilton's Music Hall in Wapping - all in January . . . Jason Isaacs and Lee Evans will star as two supposed hit men waiting in a basement for their instructions to be delivered via a dumb waiter from the kitchen above in Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter, directed by Harry Burton, at the Trafalgar Studios 1 . . . Nothing But The Truth, written by and starring John Kani, about an aging librarian confronting the betrayals, jealousies and animosities of the past, directed by Janice Honeyman, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . George Etheredge's Restoration comedy of fashion and gossip The Man Of Mode, with Tom Hardy, Rory Kinnear, Hayley Atwell and Nancy Carroll, directed by Nicholas Hytner, will open at the National Theatre . . . Richard Schiff will star in the British premiere of Glen Berger's Off Broadway hit Underneath The Lintel, about a Danish small town librarian, whose search for the borrower of a 113 year overdue book, sets him on a life changing quest, directed by Maria Mileaf, at the Duchess Theatre . . . Jessica Lange will star in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, the story of an overbearing mother and her son, who is torn between an obligation to his family and his desire to break away in 1930s St Louis, directed by Rupert Goold, at the Apollo Theatre . . . Roger Allam, Frances De La Tour, Mark Rylance, Tamzin Outhwaite, Michelle Gomez and Daisy Beaumont will star in Marc Camoletti and Beverley Cross's farce Boeing-Boeing, about an English playboy living in Paris, with three air hostess girlfriends, whose different schedules enable him to keep them apart - until the introduction of new high speed Boeing aircraft changes their timetables, directed by Matthew Warchus, at the Comedy Theatre . . . Thomas Otway's The Soldier's Fortune, a dark restoration comedy about a moneymaking scheme, with David Bamber, Anne-Marie Duff, Ray Fearon and Oliver Ford Davies, directed by David Lan, will open at the Young Vic Theatre . . . the Birmingham Stage Company production of David Auburn's Proof, about the daughter of a mathematical genius who suffered from mental illness, who seeks to discover how much of his genius - and madness - she will inherit, with Sally Oliver, Terence Booth, Neal Foster and Aislinn Sands, directed by John Harrison, will open at the Arts Theatre . . . Henrik Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman, in a new version by David Eldridge, about a man disgraced following a fraud scandal and imprisonment, and the ramifications it has on his family, with David Burke, Deborah Findlay, Ian McDiarmid and Penelope Wilton, directed by Michael Grandage, will open at the Donmar Warehouse . . . the world premiere of Nicholas Wright's The Reporter, examining the suicide of television journalist James Mossman, with Ben Chaplin, Paul Ritter and Angela Thorne, directed by Richard Eyre will take place at the National Theatre . . . the Royal Shakespeare Company's transfer season of Stratford productions at the Novello Theatre will conclude with The Tempest, with Patrick Stewart, Mariah Gale and John Light, directed by Rupert Goold . . . Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths will star in Peter Shaffer's Equus, a series of sessions in which a psychiatrist tries to discover why a stable boy blinded six horses, directed by Thea Sharrock, will open at the Gielgud Theatre . . . and Billie Piper, Kris Marshall and Laurence Fox will star in Christopher Hampton's Treats, the darkly comic story of an egotistical ex-boyfriend and an office bore, vying for the affections of a female journalist on a struggling newspaper, directed by Laurence Boswell, at the Garrick Theatre - all in February . . . Alistair Beaton's King Of Hearts, a satire in which the heir to the throne falls for an unsuitable girl and finds himself in conflict with the Prime Minister, co-directed by Max Stafford-Clark and Ramin Gray, will open at Hampstead Theatre . . . John Osborne's 1950s state of the nation play The Entertainer, with Robert Lindsay as the struggling music hall comedian and Pam Ferris as his wife, directed by Sean Holmes, will open at the Old Vic Theatre . . . the Dash Arts' Indian production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Tim Supple, will open The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm . . . Martin Crimp's Attempts On Her Life: 17 Scenarios For The Theatre, a menagerie of late 20th century obsessions, from pornography to ethnic violence and terrorism, with Kate Duchene, Michael Gould and Jacqueline Kington, directed by Katie Mitchell will open at the National Theatre . . . Moira Buffini's Dying For It, freely adapted from Nikolai Erdman's banned Soviet era satirical comedy, about an unemployed man who, when he decides to commit suicide, is besieged by people begging him to die on their behalf, directed by Kathy Burkewill, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . the Sheffield Theatres production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, which explores the relationship between two brothers when a tramp enters their lives, with David Bradley, Nigel Harmon and Con O'Neil, directed by Jamie Lloyd, will open at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn . . . Maggie Smith and Catherine McCormack will star in Edward Albee's The Lady From Dubuque, a surreal Pirandellian style play, about the arrival of a mysterious woman at the house of a younger woman suffering from a terminal illness, directed by Anthony Page, at the Haymarket Theatre . . . John Kani and Winston Ntshona will reprise their performances in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, Athol Fugard's comic examination of friendship, hope and the struggle to survive under apartheid in South Africa, directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, at the National Theatre . . . the National Theatre of Scotland production of The Wonderful World Of Dissocia, written and directed by Anthony Neilson, in which a woman on a journey in search of one lost hour that tipped the balance of her life, meets the funny, friendly and brutal inhabitants of a world she finds herself in: Dissocia, with James Cunningham, Christine Entwistle, Alan Francis, Amanda Hadingue, Jack James, Clair Little, Matthew Pidgeon and Barnaby Power, will open at the Royal Court Theatre . . . and Zoe Wanamaker will star in Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo, as a boastful Italian-American widow living in the American South, who has withdrawn from the world, until a man resembling her dead husband arrives, directed by Steven Pimlott, at the National Theatre - all in March . . . the premiere of Vernon God Little, adapted by Tanya Ronder from the novel by DBC Pierre, directed by Rufus Norris will be staged at the Young Vic - in April . . . Theodore Ward's Big White Fog, about a black family dealing with the Great Depression in 1920s Chicago, directed by Michael Attenborough, will open at the Almeida Theatre . . . and Cheek By Jowl's production of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, directed by Declan Donnellan, will open at the Barbican - both in May . . . the stage adaptation of J R R Tolkein's The Lord Of The Rings, book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, music by A R Rahman and Finnish folk group Varttina with Christopher Nightingale, directed by Matthew Warchus, with choreography by Peter Darling, will open at Drury Lane . . . Michael Ball will star in English National Opera's production of Kismet, music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, based on themes of Alexander Borodin, and book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davies, adapted from Edward Knoblock's play of the same name, an Arabian Nights inspired story following the changes of fortune that engulf a poor poet during the course of one incredible day when Kismet (fate) takes control, in a newly revised version conceived by director Gary Griffin, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Luther Davis, opening at the London Coliseum . . . and Nell Leyshon's Glass Eels, about a young girl reacting to her widowed father's new girlfriend by embarking on a journey of sexual discovery, directed by Lucy Bailey, will open at Hampstead Theatre - all in June . . . Matthew Bourne's The Car Man, loosely based on the opera Carmen, but relocating the story to a rural garage and diner in 1960s America as a handsome stranger arrives, will launch a national tour at Sadler's Wells Theatre . . . the premiere of Richard Bean's In The Club, a farce in which a corrupt MEP's personal and political life collide in a Strasbourg hotel, directed by David Grindley, will be staged at Hampstead Theatre . . . and a new work by Complicite, inspired by the story of Indian mathematician Ramanujan, directed by Simon McBurney, will open at the Barbican - all in July . . . Henrik Ibsen's Rosmersholm, with Helen McCrory and Paul Hilton, in which an aristocrat's brother in law plants doubts in his and his lover's minds, leading to a tragic conclusion, directed by Anthony Page, will open at the Almeida Theatre - in October.

On the way from Broadway:

the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, about a musical theatre fan who finds a show materialising in his living room, complete with co-book writer Bob Martin, who plays the fan in the Broadway production . . . Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, about how a man reacts to his friends' horror when he dates an overweight woman, directed by LaBute . . . and Andrew Lippa's musical The Wild Party, based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem about a decadent evening in the apartment of two vaudevillians at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Looking for a West End home after regional/fringe productions/tours:

the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of the musical Bad Girls, based on the original television series set in a women's prison, book by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus, music and Lyrics by Kath Gotts, directed by Maggie Norris . . . the Edinburgh Fringe hit Blackwatch, Gregory Burke's piece of verbatim theatre based on interviews with former soldiers of the Blackwatch regiment who served in Iraq . . . Simply Ballroom, a spinoff of the television series, featuring international dance champions, hosted Lionel Blair . . . last season's Open Air Theatre production of Sandy Wilson's 1920s musical The Boyfriend, directed by Ian Talbot, with choreography by Bill Deamer . . . Dora Bryan, Gorden Kaye, Ken Morley, Tony Adams, Ray Alan, Peter Byrne, Brian Cant, Richard Grieve and Sue Hodge in the comedy There's No Place Like A Home, written by producer Paul Elliott, set in a home for retired theatrical performers, which is threatened with closure, so the inmates decide to kidnap a celebrity and demand a ransom, in order to secure their future, directed by Chris Colby . . . Mel Smith and Belinda Laing in An Hour And A Half Late, by French Boulevardiers Jean Dell and Gerald Sibleyras, adapted by Smith, in which five minutes candid conversation between a couple about to leave for a dinner party pitches their lives into crisis and anarchy, directed by Tamara Harvey . . . Simon Callow in Noel Coward's Present Laughter, about the home life of an actor, directed by Michael Rudman . . . and the current Menier Chocolate Factory production of The Little Shop Of Horrors, loosely based on Roger Corman's 1960 film about a flesh eating plant, music by Alan Menkin, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, with Sheridan Smith, Paul Keating, Jasper Britton, Barry James and Mike McShane as the voice of the plant, directed by Matthew White, with choreography by Lynne Page.

In the pipeline:

Prospective pre London tours of: Martin Freeman and Roger Lloyd Pack in Richard Harris's The Last Laugh, adapted from a Japanese play by Koki Mitani, in which a writer is obliged to submit his script to a government official, and rework the piece with him, before it can be performed, directed by Bob Tomson . . . and Antony Sher as Kean in Jean-Paul Sartre's play, based on Alexandre Dumas pere's original, translated by Frank Hauser, telling the onstage/backstage story of the notorious 19th century Shakespearian actor, who combined legendary performances in all the classical roles at Drury Lane, with a very colourful private life, directed by Adrian Noble . . . Jonathan Pryce in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, about the cut-throat world of real estate salesmen, directed by James Macdonald . . . English National Ballet 's production of Michael Corder's new three act ballet, based on Hans Andersen's The Snow Queen, set to a Prokofiev score, taken predominantly from The Stone Flower, arranged by Julian Philips.

Still possibly alive, and may yet start kicking, these were predicted for the West End in '06 (some in '05, '04, '03, '02, '01, or even the last century) and could make it in '07:

Caroline O'Connor may bring her Australian success as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter's play with music End Of The Rainbow to London . . . Christopher Hampton's play based on William Dalrymple's novel White Mughals, about the East India Company at the turn of the 18th century, in which a Muslim princess falls in love with an English officer, may receive its premiere at the National Theatre . . . Sienna Miller and Rupert Everett may star in a West End production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion . . . Cyrano, a musical version of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and music by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn, may premiere in London, possibly starring Douglas Sills . . . Nicole Kidman may return to the West End as Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, directed by Daniel Kramer . . . Natalie Portman may star in Richard Greenberg's The American Plan, a story of five outsiders in 1960s America, directed by David Grindley . . . Robin Williams may play Peter Sellars in the premiere of a play by John Antrobus about the actor's last days . . . Ashley Judd may star in Lanford Wilson's Burn This, exploring the loneliness and dissatisfaction of a group of friends attempting to make sense of the accidental death of one of their own . . . Terry Johnson may direct Christian Slater in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird Of Youth, about an ageing film star's relationship with a gigolo . . . Trevor Nunn may direct a new musical adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, the saga of the south in the American Civil War, with book by American Mary Martin . . . a stage version of The King Of Comedy, adapted and directed by Jeremy Sams, from Martin Scorsese's 1983 film about a man obsessed with becoming a comedian, who kidnaps his talk show host idol in order to perform his stand-up routine for him . . . Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet again, directed by Adrian Noble, at an off West End venue . . . Hans Christian Andersen, Maury Yeston's new stage musical based on the biofilm, with a score by Frank Loesser . . . a stage musical version of Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life, with book by Francis Matthews, and music and lyrics by Steve Brown . . . a Bollywood style musical based on the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha . . . Jake Gyllenhaal in Romeo And Juliet, staged by 'director to the stars' Laurence Boswell . . . the musical version of The Three Musketeers, with book by Peter Raby, music by George Stiles and lyrics by Paul Leigh, which was runner up in the 1996 International Musical Of The Year competition . . . Ray Davies (of The Kinks) musical Come Dancing . . . Disney's first original stage musical Aida, based on the same legend that inspired Verdi, with book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, music by Elton John, and lyrics by Tim Rice . . . Michael Rose's production of a musical adaptation of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, based on Robert Aldrich's 1962 film, with book by Henry Farrell (from his original novel), music by Lee Pockriss, and lyrics by Hal Hackaday, which has played in America with Millicent Martin . . . The Last Of The Mohicans, a musical based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel set in America in 1757 during the colonial wars, when British and French forces set the native Mohican and Huron tribes against each other, written by Julian Ronnie and Paul Miller, and directed by David Taylor . . . Peter Shaffer's play about the relationship between (Pyotr) Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest . . . the 1981 Tony Award winning musical Dreamgirls, previously unseen in this country, with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and music by Henry Krieger, portraying the backstage drama surrounding the rise to fame of a '60s Motown style girl group, originally staged by Michael Bennett, which S Hoebee is likely to direct here . . . and Jean de Florette, a musical inspired by the films Jean de Florette and Manons des Sources - but will it feature the famous theme which sold a million pints of lager?