News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 20th February 2004

The National Theatre was the main beneficiary of this year's Olivier Awards, Britain's premier theatre awards, taking amongst others Best New Musical - Jerry Springer - The Opera, Best New Play - The Pillowman and Best Revival - Mourning Becomes Electra. The Donmar Warehouse mopped up most of the rest, including Outstanding Musical Production - Pacific Overtures and Best Director - Michael Grandage for Caligula. Disgracefully there was no television coverage of the presentations ceremony this year, but full details can be found on the Society Of London Theatre web site via the link opposite and below.

The final production in the current season at the Almeida Theatre will be the world premiere of Sebastian Barry's Whistling Psyche, directed by Robert Delamere, playing from 12th May to 12th June. It is set in a waiting room, as two supposed strangers, Florence Nightingale and a Dr Barry, while away the hours between nigh and morning. This year's Almeida Opera season, running from 1st to 18th July, will include the London premiere of Harrison Birtwhistle's The Io Passion, with libretto by Stephen Plaice, directed by Stephen Langridge, a co-production with the Aldeburgh and Bregenz festivals; and the UK premiere of Michael Nyman's Man And Boy: Dada, with libretto by Michael Hastings, directed by Lindsay Posner.

The second International Festival of Musical Theatre will be held in Cardiff in April 2005. The event will be a celebration of the art form of Musical Theatre, old and new, large and small, combining performances, concerts, cabaret, masterclasses, exhibitions and films. The Festival is inviting entries for another Global Search For New Musicals, the finalists of which will be showcased during the event. Entries are welcome from all countries and at all levels, from professionals to first time writers, the only stipulation being that shows must not have been previously professionally produced. A team of musical theatre practitioners will consider the submissions that must arrive by 31st August. Further information can be found on the IFMT web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

New York's Roundabout Theatre Company has two 'almost' premiers coming up. Alec Baldwin, Anne Heche, Tom Aldredge and Julie Halston star in Ken Ludwig's new adaptation of The Twentieth Century, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, based on a play by Charles Bruce Millholland, directed by Walter Bobbie, opening at the American Airlines Theatre on 25th March. The 1932 comedy is set aboard the luxury train en route from Chicago to New York, as a Broadway producer tries to convince a famous movie actress (who also happens to be his former protegee) to sign a contract with him, in an effort to revive his failing career. The play was adapted into a Tony Award winning musical by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Cy Coleman. Assassins, the 1991 musical about people who have made attempts on the lives of American Presidents, with book by John Weidman, and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, previously only seen Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, will finally reach Broadway at Studio 54 on 22nd April, directed by Joe Mantello, with musical staging by Jonathan Butterell.

Shakespeare's Globe continues its programme of Read Not Dead staged readings of rarely performed works by Shakespeare's contemporaries on Sunday afternoons, this time with a Middle Eastern slant. On 29th February: William Rowley's All's Lost By Lust (1619) offers a world filled with Christian lust and Moorish barbarity that ends in a gruesome orgy of cruelty and death; 14th March: Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine Part I (1587) and 28th March: Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine Part II (1588) provide a rare chance to see the plays about the rampaging conquests of Mr T in their entirety, rather than being condensed into one; 4th April: George Peele's The Battle Of Alcazar (1598) portrays the real events of the King of Portugal's failed attempt to re-conquer Morocco with the assistance of the Englishman Captain Thomas Stukeley. Each reading is preceded at 12noon by an introduction to its background by Maggy Williams. Further information about these and the Globe's other extramural activities can be found on the Shakespeare's Globe web site via the link from the London Theatres section of TheatreNet.

Birmingham Rep will stage the premiere of The Old Masters by Simon Gray, directed by Harold Pinter, from 9th to 19th June. The action takes place at a meeting of art critic Bernard Berenson and art dealer Joseph Duveen in Florence in 1937, and explores issues of true value, provenance, forgery and fraud - both artistic and personal. The show is co-produced with Greg Ripley-Duggan and Duveen Productions.

The Barbican Centre is hosting its fifth Only Connect series of live events running from 1st to 24th April. Its aim is to give artists in music, dance, film and the spoken word the opportunity to experiment and collaborate on one off projects. Events include: Billie And Me, in which Neneh Cherry, Terri Lyne Carrington, Carleen Anderson, Fontella Bass and Dee Dee Bridgewater celebrate Billie Holiday with performances, readings, film and audio recordings; and Kin with black and Asian writers and performers exploring what family means today, through poetry, prose, and live and recorded music. Further information can be found on the Barbican Centre web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

Leigh Zimmerman, Owen Brennan and Rolf Saxon will star in Three On A Couch, by Carl Djerassi (the scientist who first synthesised the contraceptive pill), directed by Andy Jordan, playing at the King's Head Theatre from 17th March to 26th April. It is a comedy set in New York, about a famous writer, obsessed with his reputation, who fakes death in order to embark on a new career under multiple identities - and the revenge his wife exacts when she finds out.

The Channel 4 Theatre Director Scheme offers an 18 month programme for anyone over the age of 20 who wishes to make a career as a theatre director. Three candidates will be awarded bursaries of 10,000, and attachments at theatres, starting in July. Previous theatres participating in the scheme include the Royal Court, the Young Vic, Bristol Old Vic and Belgrade Theatre Coventry, while Michael Boyd, Ken Loach, Trevor Nunn and Tim Supple are among those directors who have benefited from it. The closing date for the receipt of applications is 12th March. For an application form send an A5 SAE to 4TDS (Bursary Application), PO Box 444, Teddington TW11 8FS. Further information can be found on the 4TDS web site via the link from the Information section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that The Exonerated, an Off Broadway play about life on death row, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, based on interviews with prisoners, may reach the West End this spring, with Aidan Quinn and Vanessa Redgrave as the first of a series of regularly changing duos; and that the current Broadway production of the Leonard Bernstein-Comden and Green musical Wonderful Town, about two sisters who come to New York with dreams of a new life, may arrive in London next year. The Rumour Machine grinds on.