I’m adding a new feature to this weekly round-up of the last seven days: a list of the major theatre birthdays of each day. So here’s a retrospective birthday hello to everyone listed at the end of this column!
Talking of birthdays: This week also marked the 65th anniversary of NSDF, the annual drama festival centred around student theatre.
As I wrote in my column on Wednesday (see link below), after hosting a live Q&A with Clint Dyer, the new deputy artistic director of the National Theatre on Monday,
“The 65th annual National Student Drama Festival is upon us again, but as with last year’s event, it has been forced to migrate online. As a trustee of the organisation for the last few years, I have applauded the efforts of our small core team — led by current director James Phillips, soon-to-depart executive director Kim Grant, and general manager Lizzie Melbourne — to pivot the festival so smoothly to an accessible online event, and fill it to bursting with innovative new productions, plus the usual mixture of workshops with industry specialists (including a daily morning movement class with alumni of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures) panel discussions (like one yesterday that was titled “Is Theatre Shit? And how do we make it better?”) and masterclasses with industry leaders.”
Many of these are still available to watch online, via the NSDF Facebook page, so the festival lives on beyond this last week.
SUNDAY MARCH 28
My column today is the first of this new weekly recall of the week’s columns, news, tweets and other features, either by myself or others.
MON MARCH 29
As the first of the lockdown rules are eased today to allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors, my column is about where theatres stand as normal (or at least a newly-adjusted normal) life starts to resume?
- Today I hosted a live Q&A Masterclass with Clint Dyer, newly appointed deputy artistic director of the National Theatre (See Wednesday below for column about the interview):
- Tweet of the day, so appropriate for being set free, at last, to see others socially (as long as we don’t go INTO their houses but only on their balconies, terraces and gardens, if they have them):
- Birthday of the day:
- Kenneth Williams on why he doesn’t like doing theatre anymore, according to a diary entry on this day in 1982:
TUESDAY MARCH 30
My column revisits some thoughts on intervals: to be or not to be, as Lyn Gardner now writes in The Stage in praise of removing “another of those theatre conventions that are so much part of the experience that we’ve stopped questioning why they are there.”
Yet in another column for The Guardian back in 2014, she wrote the reverse column: “The quality of the interval can be as important as the quality of the show itself, but it’s not something that all venues recognise…. ” And she said: “I’ve reason to feel affection for intervals: the first words I ever exchanged with my partner took place during a chance encounter at an interval at the Donmar.”
My column also looked at the pain of having to keep re-booking tickets as performances have been postponed because of lockdowns, as Guardian columnist Zoe Williams worse about just two shows she’s had to reschedule more than once with the help of a friendly box office assistant:
“Well, that is where he could help, so long as we understood that all this was hypothetical and impossibly distant. I may as well have been booking a seat on the first commercial trip into space or organising the cryogenic storage of my body.
I ended up planning Back to the Future for May and Six – for the sixth time – for September. I guess I will be speaking to Michael again in April, and then in August, and possibly in between, which is roughly as often as I speak to the members of my extended family.”
- Announcement of the day:
I followed this up with a column — see Thursday below.
- West End news of the day:
- Regional theatre news of the day:
- A future theatrical blockbuster?
- Broadway news of the day:
WEDNESDAY MARCH 31
My column today is a feature on my conversation with Clint Dyer, the new deputy artistic director of the National Theatre, which I conducted as a Masterclass for this year’s NSDF on Monday.
In the last year he became one of the few people in history to have acted, directed and written plays on its main stages. I’ve known Clint for more than a decade and a half, ever since I interviewed him at the time he was directing The Big Life, an original British reggae/ska musical, written by Paul Sirrett and with songs by Paul Joseph, that had transferred from Stratford East to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, in 2005.
That was an event that marked him out as the first black British director of an original British musical in the West End. He gave me one of my favourite interview quotes of all time then:
“The wonderful thing about being black in this country is that you have an amazing opportunity to be the first at a lot of things.”
Today, he clarifies that “that there was “a hint of sarcasm behind it”, and added: “I do wonder if people thought I was being quite dark about it at the time, as well. In black-and-white it looks like I am just shouting yes! But it was inside a conversation we were having about how behind we were, and how ludicrous it was that I was the first one to bring a black British musical into the West End.”
Meanwhile as part of this year’s NSDF today, actor Tamsin Greig spoke to director Simon Godwin in a live interview over zoom, and revealed her pathway to becoming an actor, via a degree at University degree at Birmingham when she failed to get into drama school:
And this on dealing with reviews was interesting, too:
- Personal anniversary of the day:
- Kiln Theatre re-opens and announces its new season:
- Important quiz question of the day:
- Encouraging tweet of the day:
THURSDAY APRIL 1
My column today is on how ATG co-founders Howard Panter & Rosemary Squire are now in the process of setting up another theatrical empire with Trafalgar Entertainment.
“Having built the largest theatrical empire in the UK from just one theatre in 1992, in 2016 Panter and Squire withdrew from ATG and started again, with just one venue acquired by them in their “divorce” agreement, the Trafalgar Studios (formerly the Whitehall, which they’d repurposed into two of the most uncomfortable venues, bar none, in all of London). With a suite of offices on the Strand nearby, Panter and Squire have begun to empire build all over again, under the new name Trafalgar Entertainment, which is described in a recent press release as “a premium international live entertainment business focused on new productions and the distribution of live-streaming innovative content.”
… On Tuesday, it was announced that Trafalgar Entertainment are joining forces with regional theatre operator HQ — who currently operate 11 venues from Bromley and Dartford to Southend, Swindon, Crewe and Guildford.
In an interview with Dominic Cavendish, published in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday to coincide with the announcement of the deal, Squire commented, “I think once you’re an entrepreneur, it’s in your DNA. You could describe us as serial entrepreneurs.”
- As part of NSDF, today young actor Josh O’Connor — who plays the young Prince Charles in The Crown — was interviewed by fellow actor Andy Apollo, with whom he trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and house-shared with both there and after first moving to London.
On the challenges of doing survival jobs to get by while waiting to get acting jobs:
On the mental health challenges of the job:
- Question of the day:
- National tours announced for three Mischief Theatre shows:
- South Pacific — originally announced for 2020 — re-opens Chichester Festival Theatre for the summer:
- Theatre Dog of the Day:
FRIDAY APRIL 2
My column today is my weekly companion piece to my ShenTens podcast, this week counting down my top ten favourite Broadway leading ladies of the past. Number One is Barbara Cook, pictured in this tweet:
The column includes an embedded version of the podcast, as well as video clips of my choices in action.
- Today Twitter is saturated with messages from theatres paying tribute to Arts Council and DCMS for their Cultural Recovery Grants, the expression of public gratitude for is part of the deal of getting them.
Arts Council London blew their own trumpet in announcing nearly £83m in grants to London organisations, including the Almeida Theatre (£287k), the Roundhouse (£1.5m), the Young Vic Theatre (£219,845) and the West End’s Criterion Theatre (£164,501):
Lyric Hammersmith’s artistic director Rachel O’Riordan manages to make a public statement about the importance of theatre generally, as she does celebrates her theatre’s funding:
- The Mousetrap is to resume performances in the West End from May 17, with a cast of “familiar names and faces”, reports Baz Bamigboye. (Note: there is an error in my original tweet below — the home of The Mousetrap is the St Martin’s Theatre, though it originally opened at the Ambassadors next door in 1952)
SATURDAY APRIL 3
My column today is on tomorrow’s 50th anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Follies, and the beginnings of a theatrical return in New York yesterday.
“Yesterday, the resumption of theatre life began in New York; meanwhile, tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Broadway opening night of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, his jagged and shattering tribute to the musicals as well as the marriages of yesteryear, as James Goldman’s characters confront their current predicaments as middle and old-aged people looking back on their lives through the prism of the nostalgia of their theatrical pasts — all set to a score that gently pastiches the songs of the period while actually improving on them.
That these two events are now interlinked in the present, as Broadway continues to face the biggest-ever crisis of its existence that has had it shut down for more than a year now (and with no firm dates for its return, even now), is a poignant reminder of the illusions and delusions, and the alternate dreams and lies, that variously come to define and disappoint us, in life as well as the theatre.”
- Farewell to Arthur Kopit:
BIRTHDAYS OF THE WEEK:
SUN (MARCH 28): Rosemary Ashe, 68; Richard Eyre, 78 (former artistic director of National Theatre, pictured above left); Richard Stilgoe, 78; Dianne Wiest, 73
MON (MARCH 29): Eric Idle, 78 (book, lyrics and co-composer of Spamalot, Broadway, 2005; pictured above second from left, Idle outside Palace Theatre in London where the show played here)
WED (MARCH 31): Richard Chamberlain, 87; Deirdre Clancy, costume designer, 78; Shirley Jones, 87; Ewan McGregor, 50 (pictured above in Guys and Dolls, at the Piccadilly Theatre, 2005); Rhea Perlman, 73; Christopher Walken, 78
THUR (APRIL 1): Susan Boyle, 60; Ali McGraw, 82; David Oyelowo, 45; Philip Schofield, 59 (pictured above left, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, 1991)
FRI (APRIL 2): Raymond Gubbay, classical music promoter and impresario, 75; Penelope Keith, 81
SAT (APRIL 3): Alec Baldwin, 63 (pictured above centre, in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway in 1992, with Jessica Lange); William Gaunt, 84; Jonathan Lynn, director, actor, writer, 78; Lesley Sharp, 61 (pictured above right in A Taste of Honey at London’s National Theatre in 2014)