News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 21st May 2004

Dreamthinkspeak, the company that specialises in site specific theatre, will be presenting Don't Look Back, based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, who travelled to the underworld in an attempt to save his lover Eurydice from death, at Somerset House from 28th May to 14th June. The production will create a journey, moving through rooms, corridors, hallways and stairwells that have been closed to public access for many years, since the building's previous incarnation as the national registry for births, deaths and marriages. Audience members will begin their journey in groups of three at five minute intervals. The show, which has a company of 21, and uses live performance, music, sound and video images, was conceived and created by Tristan Sharps, in collaboration with designer Naomi Wilkinson and composer Max Richter. Further information can be found on the dreamthinkspeak web site via the link from the Theatre Companies section of TheatreNet.

As part of the refurbishment programme of the Royal Albert Hall, the famous organ, known as the Voice Of Jupiter, has undergone a three year overhaul, to restore it to its original glory. An inaugural concert on 26th June will officially mark the completion of the work. Organ virtuosi David Briggs, John Scott and Thomas Trotter, together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hickox, will perform a programme of Bach, Poulenc, Liszt, Barber and Copland, giving full vent to its power. On the afternoon of 27th June, Trotter and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nick Davies, return for a family event, with a programme that includes Holst, Saint-Saens, and the world premiere of Jason And The Argonauts by Howard Goodall, with text by Theo Doran, which uses the many voices of the organ to tell the story. In the evening of 27th June, organist John Birch joins the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Robin Stapleton, to perform a programme that includes Bach, Walton, Elgar, Widor and Strauss.

Following the damp squib of Savoy Opera, which gave in without putting up much of a fight, Lorna Luft will bring Songs My Mother Taught Me, a one person show about her mother Judy Garland, to the Savoy Theatre, opening on 6th July. In the show, written by Mitzie and Ken Welch, Luft talks about growing up as the daughter of the entertainer and sings a number of Garland standards, supported by a ten piece band. The producer in London is Lee Menzies.

The 28th Spitalfields Festival, running from 7th to 25th June, is bigger and better than ever, with 50 events in 16 venues, including Wilton's Music Hall, Wesley's Chapel, the Royal London Hospital, and Shoreditch Church. The programme features a wide range of music from medieval to the newly commissioned. Performers include soloists such as Gary Cooper, Bart Jakubczak and Peter Donohoe; instrumental groups from the Vanbrugh Quartet, and the Florestan Trio to the Academy of Ancient Music, and vocal ensembles from Ex Cathedra Consort to the BBC Singers and the Russian Patriarchate Choir of Moscow. Once again, in addition to the concerts, there are a series of free lunchtime and early evening rush hour events featuring leading young performers and composers. All this plus fringe events, walks, talks and exhibitions about the Spitalfields area and the restoration of Nicholas Hawkesmoor's Christ Church, one of the great baroque churches of Europe. Full details can be found on the Spitalfields Festival web site via the link from the Festivals section of TheatreNet.

Lesley Joseph stars in Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady, directed by Mark Clements, which opens a national tour at Cambridge Arts Theatre on 8th June. The lady in question is an ex nightclub singer with a stinging tongue, back from rehab to start life again, supported by her equally unpredictable friends, a worthless ex-lover and her devoted teenage daughter. A Theatre Royal Bath production.

Gambon: A Life In Acting, a profile - in his own words and those of his collaborators - of the actor dubbed by Ralph Richardson 'The Great Gambon' compiled by Mel Gussow, has just been published by Nick Hern Books.With a career spanning classics at the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, premiere productions of Ayckbourn, Hare and Churchill, and landmark revivals of Pinter and Beckett (not to mention television and film roles), Gambon is the doyen of his generation. Through a series of interviews compiled over a number of years with Gambon and others including Dennis Potter, Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Peter Hall, Deborah Warner and Simon Russell Beale, Gussow offers a wealth of stories about this idiosyncratic actor, whose exploits give any of the outrageous Victorian actor managers a run for their money.

This year's Garsington Park Opera season, one of the 'alternative Glyndebournes', running from 12th June to 11th July, continues the policy of combining favourite operas with discoveries of little known works. It comprises Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutti, directed by John Cox; the British premiere of Rossini's first full length comic opera L'equivoco Stravagante, directed by Massimo Gasparon; and the first British professional production of Tchikovsky's Cherevichki, based on Gogol's Christmas Eve, directed by Olivia Fuchs. Further information can be found on the GPO web site via the link from the Dance, Opera, Orchestras & Choirs section of TheatreNet.

The next season at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield will include Derek Jacobi in Schiller's Don Carlos, in a new translation by Mike Poulton, about Philip II of Spain and his son, directed by Michael Grandage, opening on 28th September; the first regional production of Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange, examining definitions of sanity in a crumbling NHS hospital, directed by Kathy Burke, opening on 8th February; and Ian McDiarmid in Edward Bond's Lear, directed by Jonathan Kent, opening on 15th March.

All Shook Up, a show that injects 24 Elvis Presley hits into a story of a small town bewitched by a guitar strumming stranger, will open on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre on 24th March next year. The show, with book by Joe DiPietro, directed by Christopher Ashley, and choreographed by Jodi Moccia, will play a pre Broadway season at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago from 21st December to 23rd January. It includes Jailhouse Rock, which is the reason that the rights to the song were denied to the West End production of the same name.

The Bolshoi Ballet returns to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden from 19th July to 7th August, with a programme that includes Declan Donnellan's new production of Romeo And Juliet, making its first appearance outside Russia; and Pierre Lacotte's production of Petipa's The Pharaoh's Daughter, one of the company's oldest works, but only now receiving its British premiere; plus Don Quixote, Swan Lake and Spartacus. The season is presented by Victor Hochhauser.

The Royal Opera House is staging an exhibition to mark the 75th anniversary of the death Serge Diaghilev, the legendary Russian impresario, who had such a great impact on the development of ballet and theatre. It pays tribute through posters, programmes photographs and memorabilia to this extraordinary figure, who first brought his Ballets Russes to Covent Garden in 1911.

And Finally . . . A chandelier at the Theatre Royal Haymarket did a 'Phantom Of The Opera' and dropped four feet, bringing some plaster from the ceiling down on to the audience's heads on Saturday night. There is no truth in the rumour that it was caused by the great Victorian theatre manager John Buckstone turning in his grave at the announcement of the extension of When Harry Met Sally.