News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st March 2000

Hard Times, the musical by Christopher Tookey and Hugh Thomas based on the Dickens novel, will open at the Haymarket Theatre on 6th June, following a season at Theatre Royal Windsor. It stars Roy Hudd, Brian Blessed, Patsy Rowlands and Susan Jane Tanner. The show uses a travelling circus to tell its story of the harsh life in a northern manufacturing town during the industrial revolution. Christopher Tookey directs, with choreography by Gillian Gregory. Hard Times Productions is presenting and Bill Kenwright is the executive producer. Investment information can be found via a link from the Investment section of TheatreNet.

The Almeida Theatre seems obsessed with Frank Weiderkind's Lulu (or more possibly with its box office potential). It only seems like yesterday that Joanne Whalley was seen in the title role. Nevertheless next February, Anna Friel will make her British stage debut in Weiderkind's portrait of the rise and fall of a girl in a European society driven by sexual desire and greed. Jonathan Kent will direct a new version, adapted by Nicholas Wright from the play Earth Spirit and its sequel Pandora's Box. Prior to this, the Almeida's winter season is expected to include the British premiere of Yasmina Reza's Conversations After A Burial (when is she going to get around to writing a play rather than conversations) and The Tempest, starring Ian McDiarmid, and directed Jonathan Kent. The company will relocate to a West End venue next year, probably the Old Vic, while building work is carried out at its home base.

Meanwhile Adventures in Motion Pictures will move in to the Old Vic in 2002, establishing a full time production base, including the use of rehearsal and office facilities, with a resident company of thirty. In a four year deal with the theatre, AMP will create six new productions, directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne. Prior to this, the previously mentioned production of The Car Man will play its London season at the Old Vic, opening on 13th September.

Donmar Warehouse is launching a "You Set The Price Night" on 24th May, when theatregoers can buy a pair of tickets for Passion Play for as little or as much as they choose - on a first come, first served basis from 5.00pm on the day. The cast includes Cheryl Campbell, Martin Jarvis, James Laurenson and Cherie Lunghi. Tickets normally range from 14 to 24. A striking publicity move - but a bit of a dangerous precedent. Hot ticket artistic director Sam Mendes is confirmed to direct a play at Donmar in the autumn.

Jim Davidson's Effective Theatrical Productions has signed a deal with SFX Apollo to produce an annual pantomime at the London Apollo, Hammersmith. The arrangement will start this December with Dick Whitttington, written by and starring Davidson, with Victor Spinetti, John Virgo, and John Lyons. Brian Blessed as Captain Hook in Peter Pan is pencilled to follow if it is a success. Effective already stages shows at five regional theatres.

Ron Hutchinson's previously mentioned new play, directed by Denis Lawson and opening at Hampstead Theatre on 25th April, has been renamed Burning Issues. It concerns the decision by firm of publishers as to whether it should reject the latest work of its biggest selling author on the grounds of racism. The cast includes John Gordon Sinclair, William Chubb, Kenneth Colley, Miranda Pleasance, Rob Spendlove and Andrew Woodhall.

New Musicals Alliance in association with FACADE, is repeating its "Month Of Sundays" course for writers in the Craft Of Musical Theatre Writing on 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th May at Goldsmith's College. It features seminars with top writers, composers and directors, including Anthony Drewe, Mary Stewart-David, Chris Walker, Stuart Pedlar and Jeremy Sams, and the opportunity to collaborate on projects with different writing partners. The course is ideal for writers from the pop, classical and light entertainment fields wishing to learn about musical theatre. For details contact Jeremy Peyton Jones at Goldsmith's on 0171 919 7200 or email

Having already appeared as Charles Dickens reading his short stories in a television series over Christmas three years ago, Simon Callow is to star in a new play, The Mystery Of Charles Dickens. Written by Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd, and directed by Patrick Garland, the production will tour prior to a West End appearance this summer. The Ambassador Theatre Group and Act Productions are the producers.

Marie Jones' award winning Irish comedy Stones In His Pockets, a tale of what happens when a remote part of Ireland gets a taste of Hollywood, will transfer from the Tricycle Theatre to the New Ambassadors Theatre on 24th May. It features Sean Campion and Conleth Hill, the director is Ian McElhinney, and the producers are E&B Productions and Pat Moylan.

The Theatre Museum has acquired the Redgrave family archive, comprising of diaries, letters, papers, photographs and recordings requiring over 41 metres of shelf storage space. It covers the private and working life of Sir Michael Redgrave, including correspondence with both fellow actors such as Gielgud, Olivier and Welles, and university contemporaries such as Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess, plus rare material belong to his father Roy (an Australian silent movie actor) and his grandfather. Cataloguing the collection is expected to take two years, after which it will be available in exhibitions, the museum's study room and online.

The Covent Garden Festival, running from 13th May to 3rd June, will celebrate its 10th birthday with its customary inventive juxtaposition of show and venue - some old and some new. Highlights include: Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial By Jury returning to both Bow Street Magistrates Court and the Royal Courts of Justice, and HMS Pinafore performed on board HMS President; an Opera Tour of the National Portrait Gallery; Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll - three cabarets at the Rock Garden; a Music Hall Trail walking tour; Sondheim Celebration Day at the Theatre Museum; a 50ft whale in the Piazza with an aquatic entertainment inside; and various performances the new Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House. Full details from the Covent Garden Festival web site via the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

And Finally . . . You can never start too early - Santas Unlimited is already recruiting Father Christmases for the 2000/2001 season.