ShentonSTAGE Daily for Wednesday November 3

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily that is e-mailed to subscribers every morning (to subscribe, send message to, and is also available online here.

My own reviews of ENO’s new production of HMS PINAFORE at the London Coliseum, THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT at the RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre, WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? at Birmingham Rep and LOVE AND OTHER ACTS OF VIOLENCE at t4he Donmar Warehouse is here:

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Tomorrow I will be reviewing tonight’s opening of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE * (* SORT OF) at the Criterion, and on Friday I will be reviewing the transfer of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LINE from the National to the Duke of York’s.


  • Yesterday it was formally announced that Paul Taylor-Mills, producer and founder of Battersea’s Turbine Theatre, is to get his old job back: he will return to be artistic director at the Other Palace now that Bill Kenwright has acquired it from Andrew Lloyd Webber, for whom he previously was an advisory producer from 2016-2018.
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Productions of two Off-Broadway musicals — HEATHERS and BE MORE CHILL — that both received their UK debuts at the Other Palace during his previous tenure there were transferred to the West End by Taylor-Mills, in partnership with Bill Kenwright; and Heathers will return to the venue, from November 25 to February 20, to inaugurate his tenure. (I speculated aloud here last Friday that perhaps the theatre will be now be renamed The Other Turbine).

I’ve seen people express disappointment on social media that this is the opening gambit for a theatre that wants to position itself as a home for new musicals; but programmes take a while to develop, and this will buy him some time to do so.

He will also continue to operate the Turbine, where the annual MT FESTUK that he inaugurated at the Other Palace and then continued at the Turbine will take place next at the latter from January 31-February 12.

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Last week the Old Vic announced tersely, “The Old Vic and co-producers Scenario Two have mutually agreed that the production of Into the Woods, scheduled for spring 2022, will not take place at the Old Vic. All ticket bookers will be contacted directly. The Old Vic wishes the show well for its future life.”

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Now The Stage has revealed that the decision to pull the show originates in staff unease over comments made, unrelated to the Sondheim musical, by director Terry Gilliam (pictured above~), “relating to trans rights, race and the #MeToo movement, which some within the Old Vic team felt to be at odds with the theatre’s culture and values.” In particular, it follows Gilliam’s public endorsement last week of Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix show, which has been widely criticised for being transphobic.

So the literal cancellation of Into the Woods appears related to the movement to cancel Gilliam; the Old Vic’s commercial partners on the show, John Berry and Anthony Lilley’s Scenario Two, are now trying to salvage the production by finding another theatre to host it.

The Old Vic is an independent theatre that is not in receipt of public funding, so is not answerable for its decisions beyond its own walls, but given its recent delicate history as a place where former artistic director Kevin Spacey’s alleged abuse of younger male actors went either unnoticed or unchallenged, it is obviously sensitive now to its staff’s concerns.

But as Dominic Cavendish has warned in a column in the Daily Telegraph,

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Of course artistic directors have always been the guardians at the gate in terms of what they programme. But now it seems that they no longer have the freedom to make purely artistic decisions, but that their staff can dictate who can and can’t work there for other, unrelated reasons.

In a revealing interview with Kenneth Branagh about his new (and most personal) film yet BELFAST in the New York Times, he addresses the journalist’s own concerns around using the music of Van Morrison on the soundtrack, which is itself another kind of attempted cancellation around the musician’s COVID scepticism.

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He answers: ”  This way of trying to understand the world, which I encountered back there in that particular area of tribalism in Belfast — you’re with us or you’re against us — it seems to me allows for little of the humanity that appears in the gaps between those harshly drawn lines. In those gaps all sorts of human behavior occurs. Sometimes irresponsible behavior and sometimes heroic behavior. I have not understood or followed particularly what Van has spoken about in this regard. He is entirely and utterly an artist, and he has his particular unique Celtic brand of it, including a sort of inbuilt defiance of convention, independence of mind. With such passion also comes, inevitably, strong opinions and a very particular and in his case ever-changing personality. But I found him, as an artistic ally, a real mensch. That was my direct experience and the one that I can best talk about, and it was excellent”

And speaking of his own position as an artist, actor and film maker, Branagh perceptively remarks, “A friend of mine talked in these terms once: He said that the great boxers have only seven great fights in them. He was talking about actors maybe also only having seven great roles in them where everything comes together. In between those you’re going to do a lot of dancing, you’re going to do a lot of calculating, you’re going to try and play the system — as if you had any control over it.”

And he comes to a powerful realisation: “That Beckett phrase of fail, fail again, fail betteris maybe one to bear in mind. Butwho pretends that life is one slowly ascending curve of human development? Most of the time you have to smash into something: the death, the broken relationship, the horrible career moment. Then you think, Well, what matters to me? What do I enjoy? Or even just, I’m still here.”

Theatre Birthdays (NOV 3): Roseanne Barr, 69; Lulu, 73 (pic: as Miss Adelaide in GUYS AND DOLLS, at Prince of Wales Theatre, 1986); Dylan Moran, 50

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