News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st July 1998

West End stage crews are in for a bonanza weekend on 22nd/23rd August. London's most travelled production An Ideal Husband, moves out of the Albery to make way for the Almeida season, and returns to the Haymarket on 25th August. Things We Do For Love transfers from the Gielgud to the Duchess on the 26th August, recast with Belinda Lang, Alexander Hanson, Caroline Harker and Adrian McLoghlin. This leaves time for the Gielgud to be sprung clean for a 14th September opening of Michael Frayn's new short play compilation Alarms And Excursions, which is currently touring. These musings on the contribution of gadgetry to contemporary life, star Robert Bathurst, Nicky Henson, Felicity Kendal and Josie Lawrence, directed by Michael Blakemore. The producers are Michael Codron and Lee Dean.

G&J Productions, who have styled themselves leader of the new generation of producers, with Fever Pitch, Trainspotting and Shopping And Fucking have announced that they are to cease trading. Partners Mark Goucher and David Johnson will each continue to produce independently. They have several productions scheduled for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, all bar one of which will go ahead. Their current West End long runner The Reduced Shakespeare Company, and the planned Christmas transfer to the Peacock Theatre, of Birmingham Rep's production of The Snowman, will also continue.

It's impossible to avoid saying that there has been a right Carry On in the National Theatre's production of Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle And Dick - the "behind the camera" look at the lives of the comedy film actors over a twenty year period, written and directed by Terry Johnson. The first day of rehearsals cliché - where at the end of the readthrough the actors sidle off to call their agents - came true, and Antony Sher, in the leading role of Sid James walked. He claimed that while his co-stars, who include Samantha Spiro as Barbara Windsor, and Gina Bellman as Imogen Hassall, were comfortable doing impersonations, he was "not a Rory Bremner type of performer". This is a bit rich coming from an actor who has made "transformation" his trademark. Geoffrey Hutchings (actually more likely casting) has been wheeled in as a replacement, and the production goes ahead on schedule.

Equally Divided, a new play by Ronald Harwood, opens a short tour at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford on 15th September, with a West End transfer in mind. Stephanie Cole and Stephanie Beacham play very contrasting sisters, fighting over the provisions in their mother's will, with Gerald Harper refereeing as their lawyer. Christopher Morahan directs and the producer is Duncan Weldon.

Britain's greatest theatre architect Frank Matcham now has a society dedicated to enjoying, supporting and visiting his legacy. As our most prolific and influential architect, he created thirty theatres throughout the country, including the Coliseum, Palladium and Victoria Palace in London. The society is based in Buxton, where the Opera House is a particularly fine example of his work. For information contact The Frank Matcham Society, Flat 9, Hardwick Gardens, Hardwick Mount, Buxton SK17 6PR.

Full Gallop, a play by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson, about the American fashion editor Diana Vreeland, opens at the Hampstead Theatre on 3rd September. Mary Louise Wilson plays Vreeland, a role for which she won Obie and Drama Desk awards in New York.

As the exterior of the new Sadlers Wells Theatre nears completion, it is revealed as even uglier than the "computer visualisations" led us to believe. Hopefully the inside will be better (I've always been an incurable optimist). Meanwhile the opening season is now firmed up. Rambert Dance Company open with two mixed programmes from 13th to 17th October; the Royal Ballet plays four mixed programmes 20th October to 7th November; Rambert return with Cruel Garden, based on the life of Frederico Garcia Lorca, by Lindsay Kemp and Christopher Bruce 10th to 14th November; Eric von Stroheim's silent film masterpiece The Wedding March, with Carl Davis' new score played live by the London Philharmonic, is showing on 16th and 17th November; La Cuadra de Sevilla perform an Andalusian version of Carmen, told in song and dance, 18th to 21st November; Ballett Frankfurt presents a mixed programme 24th to 28th November; two new productions by the Royal Opera of The Bartered Bride and The Golden Cockerel play 22nd December to 16th January; and Japan's leading Butoh company, Sankai Juku performs Shijima 8th to 22nd January.

Although it must be borne in mind that the curtain can go down as well as up, becoming an Angel - that is investing in theatre productions - can produce spectacular results. The long running mega-hit musicals have produced Box Office receipts that even dwarf the Hollywood blockbusters. While Jurassic Park has taken a measly £575m, Cats has taken £1.139bn, and The Phantom Of The Opera, which will probably turn out to be the greatest money-spinner of all time, £1.73bn. Unfortunately, while the government has introduced tax incentives for investors in films, theatre investment has not been included, even though investment in West End shows carries a higher risk, and no secondary market in television and video sales. Click on our new Angel to the right of this column, for more information about how theatrical investment works.