News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 31st October 1997

Only three months after its last financial crisis, the Royal Opera House is staring at a Wagnerian abyss once again. 230 casual staff have not been paid for up to three months, and pay cheques for some regular staff have bounced. A disastrous start to its first peripatetic season has seen its deficit rise to 500,000. Ballet fans were reluctant to follow the company to the cavernous Apollo in Hammersmith, where full price ticket sales reached only 30%. It has also emerged that Covent Garden had previously been using advance ticket sales money to help its cash flow - a practice deemed improper if not illegal by the commercial theatres in which it is now performing. Chief Executive Mary Allen refused to answer many of the questions put to her when she appeared before a parliamentary select committee investigating the affairs of the House this week. The previous saviours, Lord Sainsbury and Vivien Duffield, who stepped in with 1.5m and 500,000 respectively to enable the House to continue operating, were quite clear then that it was a one off. The Board is currently trying to resolve the situation. It is thought that the remainder of the season will have to be reduced in scale or even cancelled.

Wallace And Gromit have found a place to hang their Christmas stockings. They will be having A Grand Night Out at the Peacock Theatre from 24th November to 10th January, with lots of grand afternoons as well. Nick Park's creations have been brought to life in a stage show conceived by Andrew Dawson and produced by John Gore (the team behind Thunderbirds FAB), which has been co-written by Bob Baker, who also co-wrote the films.

In a true sign of the times, Equity the performers union may soon be issuing approved contracts for working in table dancing clubs. It is currently in negotiation with the main clubs operator. How different from the days when a performer's introduction to the business was a season in weekly rep. Of course it will come in handy if the Old Vic really does become the National Table Dancing Centre. Perhaps if Equity could move on and unionise catwalk modelling, then its financial worries would be over, since members contributions are supposed to be 1% of their fees.

Adventures in Motion Pictures have a new weapon in their publicity arsenal for Matthew Bourne's Cinderella at the Piccadilly. Having exhausted the "Adam Cooper and Sarah Wildor are a real couple: they're sex on legs" approach, they have moved on. From next week Cooper (the number 1 Pilot Prince) and William Kemp (the number 1 Good Angel) will alternate their roles for two shows a week. Presumably the hope is that this will spice up the season, and possibly create repeat business by further permutations on the already complex casting schedule.

As forecast, the currently touring Royal Shakespeare Company production of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac will open at the Lyric Theatre on 27th November. As a great romantic classic it is very suitably booking until 14th February. Antony Sher is wearing the nose - or is it the other way round? Criterion Productions is the co-producer and the director is Greg Doran.

Only one cheer for the Society Of London Theatre's fortnightly London Theatre Guide which is relaunched this week. It now appears in full colour as opposed to the old twotone. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the redesign has actually rendered it less effective, since it lacks its previous clarity, and so is harder to follow. Hopefully it will be refined as the weeks pass, and soon regain its old authority. Meanwhile, like the NHS, it remains free at the point of delivery - theatres, libraries and information centres everywhere. Alternatively it can be posted to you for an annual subscription of 12.50. Contact SOLT at Bedford Chambers, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8HQ.

On the Casting Couch: Peter Pan at the National Theatre will feature Alec McCowen as the storyteller, Ian McKellen as Mr Darling/Captain Hook, Jenny Agutter as Mrs Darling, Clive Rowe as Smee and Daniel Evans as Peter, opening on 16th December; and Alun Armstrong joins Griff Rhys Jones in The Front Page opening at the Donmar Warehouse on 15th December.