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October 29, 2009

October 29: Michael Feinstein, Greg Doran, comedy for kids and puppets for adults

The Stage, October 29, 2009

As chief associate director of the RSC, Greg Doran has certainly turned his childhood love of Shakespeare into a frutiful and distinguished career. He talks to us about writing The Shakespeare Almanac and making some brave directorial decisions.

Working and living in Stratford, I began to see all the references Shakespeare makes to the natural world though his eyes. I even went to the spot on the river where a girl called Catherine Hamlet drowned. To my astonishment there was a willow that “grew aslant the brook”, just as he writes in Hamlet.

I became increasingly fascinated by his alertness to the natural world and it started to have a knock-on effect on me.

Grammy-nominated singer, pianist and Great American Songbook devotee Michael Feinstein tells Michael Darvell about his upcoming gig at the London Palladium with special guest John Barrowman, and his search for rare songs.

I’ve just had a message saying that two Jerome Kern songs from 1941 have been discovered and did I want to sing them. I’m hoping they have good lyrics, because sometimes songs are suppressed for a reason.

ITV’s director of drama, Laura Mackie, talks about the turning point for its programming ad the challenge of balancing quality shows and tight budgets.

At the beginning of 2008, we launched a lot of new dramas in quite a short period of time. And I think, with hindsight, we were trying to have too big a gear-shift. But by the time we got to autumn last year, we had pulled back a bt. We decided, having had a break from psychological thrillers, that we did want to commission some. But that we wanted them to feel very authored, like The Children.

Also this week:

  • For the first time in a quarter century, London is set to host a city-wide festival of puppetry — and it is aimed exclusively at adults. With a host of British and international companies showcasing their productions across seven venues, the event hopes to challenge the notion that the genre is for kids only

  • After establishing a School of Comedy club in west London, Laura Lawson cranked up the creative process a few levels by taking the youngsters to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and ultimately landing an E4 television show to showcase their talents. She speaks to Angela Thomas about nurturing comic talent

  • Technical Michael Sowby — better known as ‘Gadget’ — has worked on a huge range of productions at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As he takes on a full-time job and makes 2009 his last working stint at the event, he talks about his experiences

  • Well known to long-time Stage readers as a vocal and passionate advocate of the reform of the British drama training establishment, Sam Kogan was the founding principal of the Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing. His daughter Helen Kogan explains how her father’s early life influenced his outlook and why she was compelled to present his life’s study in a new book

  • Insight: In the 30 years since children’s theatre has taken off, the variety of performances on offer for the under-fives has been expanding. Susan Elkin examines the market

  • Antony Gormley’s recent fourth plinth project One & Other crossed the boundary between visual art and live theatre. Is it the start of a new trend?

  • Maggie Brown looks at online EastEnders spin-off, E20, the competition beteen Strictly Come Danicng and The X Factor and why there are better choices for the House of Lords than Kirstie Allsop

  • Richard Jordan defends the term ‘showbusiness’.

  • Showpeople: Q&A interviews with Ian Kelly, playing Robert Lyon in The Pitmen Painters and Jacqui Dankworth, actress and duaghter of Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth, who has released her latest album, Back to You;

Dear John: “How do I combine live and online marketing to best promote my music?”

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October 22, 2009

October 22: Chloe Hart, Kate Fleetwood and the return of Primeval

The Stage, October 22, 2009 - with Chloe Hart

Kate Fleetwood, who was nominated for a Tony Award for her Lady Macbeth, plays another bloodthirsty woman in Donmar Warehouse’s Life is a Dream. She tells Nuala Calvi why Rosaura is more than a stock character and how she and husband Rupert Goold balance life and work.

Landing the role of Tracy Turnblad in her favourite musical Hairspray was a dream come true for Chloe Hart. She speaks to Nick Smurthwaite about her fast-track journey to performing in the West End, from joining her local Stagecoach school in Cornwall to training at Guildford School of acting and undergoing the nerve-wracking audition process for the show

The revival of ITV’s Primeval, which was rescued from the jaws of destruction, certainly points to a brighter future for British TV drama, by striking an innovative and mutually beneficial cost-sharing deal. Maggie Brown reflects on the developments and examines the implications

In the seventies, Katy Manning travelled to alien planets, fought Daleks and learned her craft from Jon Pertwee. She talks about being a Doctor Who girl, taking her one-woman play abotu Bette Davis across the Australian outback and returning home to the UK

Birthplace of the Spiky Washer, as well as countless sets for majore West End and national productions. Set-up (Scenery) in Hertfordshire places a lot of importance in education young people through work epxerience. Managing director Mark Wilsher explains why

Insight: The National Endowment for the Arts, the largest funder of the arts in America, is supposedly indepependent. So should it be working with the US government to promote President Obama’s agenda?

Commercial theatre producer Edward Snape discussed the problem associated with touring theatre for children and reflects on ways to make shows more accessible for young audiences

Dear John: My next role is as a real person whom several stars have already protrayed. How do I make my own mark?

Showpeople: Beverley Klein, in Pirates of Penzance at Chichester Festival Theatre; Tamsin Shasha, in Misteriosi at Riverside Studios; Geoff Gascoyne, who has released his jazz quartet’s take on pop songs

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October 15, 2009

October 15: RSC's Vikki Heywood and Peep Show's Isy Suttie

The Stage, October 15, 2009

This week, Royal Shakespeare Company executive director Vikki Heywood tells The Stage how the organisation is building the foundation for a more diverse workforce in theatre.

As an industry, we have not been proactive enough about promoting ourselves to kids in schools. I think that really is where the problem is. I don’t think that people from diverse communities think about the arts as a place where they could get a job. And I think we’ve done a pretty poor job of getting that message out there… We really have to start saying that you don’t have to want to be a performer to get into this place.

…We are not attracting a diverse workforce. I think as an industry we have to stand up and say that we want to very loudly. We are not saying it loudly enough at the moment - not at all.

Heywood also talks about the challenges of rebuilding the company’s Stratford-upon-Avon home, and her ruminations of the RSC’s future in London.

Now a familiar face thanks to her role as Dobby on Channel 4’s Peep Show, Isy Suttie followed the comedy circuit route before landing the life-changing role. She tells us about juggling comedy gigs with call centre work and having lots of empathy with the IT misfit character she plays.

You don’t really start earning money in stand-up for a couple of years. For the whole of 2007, I got half my income from comedy and the other half from a call centre for Oddbins. I would do a gig in Machester, get the cocach back at midnight, get home at 6am and sleep for an hour before getting up and going back to work. I left in 2007 and even then I did not know if I could earn a living from comedy. Then I got Peep Show.

Also this week:

  • In a special report on the range of choices available to parents who want to enrol their children on a part-time performing arts course, The Stage’s education and training editor Susan Elkin warns that cost does not always felect quality of teaching, while resident agony uncle John Byrne offers his tips on choosing a course

  • When The Stage’s news and opinion editor Alistair Smith heard that Hackney Empire was experiencing considerable financial difficulties, he requested to see documents from Arts Council England under the Freedom of Information Act. More than a month later, ACE chose to draw a veil over proceedings — and sent out 12 pages of black ink…

  • Media expert Maggie Brown looks at the BBC Trust’s proposed editorial guidelines and their clampdown on language

  • Andrew Fishwick, producer for the Fish Partnership, on the conflicts between writer, director and producer

  • Dear John: “How do I get the balance right between individuality and employability when starting out in my career?”

  • Jacksons Lane arts centre in London has come back from the brink of closure with a bold and adventurous autumn programme featuring German wheelers, acrobatic troupes, burlesque and puppetry. Nuala Calvi speaks to its artistic director Adrian Berry

  • Over the last 30 years, rural theatre in the UK has flourished with artists, producers and companies such as Eastern Angles and Forest Forge delivering work to local communities without seeking approval from city audiences. We reflect on this theatrical revolution

  • As theatre marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Samuel Beckett, it’s time to acknowledge the influence music hall stars, including crosstalking king Joe O’Gorman, had on his work

  • Bands that were big in the eighties are back, with Spandau Ballet reforming and Rick Astley winning awards. We examine the rise of the nostalgia tour

  • Backstage Focus reports from the first International Festival of Scenic Arts, held recently at the Victoria & Albert Museum

  • Showpeople: Q&A interviews with Kevin Anderson, currently playing Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption; Michael Malarkey, making his professional acting debut in the Young America season at Royal & Derngate, Northampton; Italian quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti, who portrays 100 characters in his London show

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October 8, 2009

October 8: The stars of Little Voice and Bones

Lesley Sharp and Diana Vickers in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Reality TV stars face more criticism than most if they get so far as to step foot on the West End stage. Diana Vickers, a finalist in last year’s series of The X Factor and currently starring in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice opposite Lesley Sharp and Marc Warren. She talks to The Stage about making her stage debut.

X Factor was incredibly stressful. I was away from home, I had one week to learn and put across a new song, and I was being constantly judged, not just by the judges in the competition but also by the media.

Little Voice feel quite different. It is a longer process and much more relaxed. I’m always chirpy when I come into rehearsals, like a puppy.

We also meet her costar James Cartwright, who plays Billy and is the son of the play’s author, Jim Cartwright.

There is an added pressure because of the nepotism issue, which means I have to work twice as hard to be exceedingly good. Otherwise, even though it’s not true, people will say, “Bloody hell, he’s only here because of his dad.” However, I can sleep well knowing that I have grafted.

David Boreanaz came to fame playing Angel, the campire with a soul, in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel. Now, as he prepares to start a fifth season as FBI agent Seeley Booth in Bones, starting on Sky1 tonight, he talks to The Stage about the pressures on US TV due to the recession, and the pressures on him as a lead actor who is moving behind the camera, with director credits on two of this season’s episodes.

You have to really make that transition relatively quickly, from doing one thing with these shoes on as a director and then stepping in as an actor. It becomes two different forces that you’re working with and you have to recognise that.

Also this week:

  • We have a special feature on rehearsal rooms, with advice on how to find the affordable, clean and convenient spaces to best suit your needs, as well as listings of some selected spaces in London and around the country.

  • Adam Meggido, artistic director of The Sticking Place, explores a modern Grand Guignol in Terror 2009, featuring new plays by leading writers including Mark Ravenhill and Neil LaBute. He tells Alistair Smith about the “proximity of the laugh to the scream” and why the festival divides opinion

  • There are some winners in the recession — and UK holiday centres, and the light entertainment jobs they create, are among the success stories

  • Insight: If today’s unprecedented levels of interest in dance across the UK are to be maintained and developed, the art form needs ample well-resourced opportunities at every level of education, argues Michael Quinn

  • In response to Roger Foss’s argument against interactive theatre last week, artistic directors David Micklem and David Jubb explain why they are acknowledging and celebrating audiences’ creativity at Battersea Arts Centre. Plus, columnist Ian Herbert looks at how the debate has highlighted the breadth of theatre styles

  • Arthur Smith on why Lenny Henry is funny, whatever the Daily Telegraph says

  • Backstage Focus: Whether it’s using newer vehicles to improve fuel efficiency, running them on biodiesel or using alternative transport, many theatre companies are trying to make touring more environmentally friendly

  • Showpeople: Q&A interviews Elena Edipidi, co-founder of Levantes Dance Theatre, William Ilkley, returning to Hull Truck for its 25th anniversay production of John Godber’s Up’n’Under and Irya Gmeyner, founder of contemporary Cirkus Cirkor, which opens with Inisde Out at London’s Peacock Theatre on October 14

  • Dear John: I’ve developed a tribute act and feel I can impersonate the artist very well. But how do I go about getting decent gigs in this market? With guest advisers Stewart Nicol, aka ‘Billy Connearly’, and Mick Gillett, who plays in Johnny Cash tribute band CA$HBACK.

The Stage is available from major newsagents, priced £1.40. For postal subscription rates, see http://www.thestage.co.uk/subscribe

October 1, 2009

October 1: Why Annie Caulfield backs the Sound of Music's baroness

Writer Annie Caulfield, who started in fringe theatre before moving into television, has found that radio may just be the perfect fit. She talks about her latest radio drama, The Von Trapps and Me, which airs as Radio 4’s Saturday Play this weekend and sees the story of The Sound of Music from the perspective of the woman Captain Von Trapp jilted in order to marry Maria

I always felt sorry for the baroness. I felt thta what happens is not nice for her. She is jilted for a teenage nun. But when I looked ito it and read Captain Von Trapp’s memoir, I discovered he was not at all like he is in the film…

Playwright and poet Howard Barker brings his experimental Found in the Ground to London’s Riverside Studios until October 11. He talks to Aleks Sierz about arts council cuts and writing with style

The more I write, the less conventional narrative I produce. I would describe this as a series of impressions and the audience must make what it can of them

Also this week in The Stage:

  • As the four-legged stars of the Great British Circus hit the headlines once again, can animal circuses ever lose their association with cruelty?

  • Curtain Up: Lalayn Baluch previews Shunt’s new show Money and meets director David Rosenberg

  • Insight: Sky and cable channels are now airing US shows within weeks of their first Stateside broadcast, leaving terrestrial viewers waiting months to see the latest series. Are they being treated like second-class citizens?

  • With interactive theatre without actors on the horizon at BAC, theatre critic Roger Foss argues that performance should be left to performers rather than audience members

  • Dear John: I volunteered to help with youth theatre workshops over the summer and would like to do some more. Is it something I can do alongside my own performing career?

  • Maggie Brown on ITV and Channel 4’s executive problems

  • Richard Jordan on the need to support new UK musicals

  • Showpeople interviews with Petra Massey of performance troupe Spymonkey, Nadim Naaman, part of new company AfterView’s revue of gay torch songs, actor and musician Bashy currently touring in Markus the Sadist

  • Pictorial highlights from The Stage’s summer party, held last week in Blackppol’s Winter Gardens

The Stage is available for £1.40 at most major newsagents. For postal subscription rates, go to http://www.thestage.co.uk/subscribe/