London Ticket -- May 1998
The Americans are back: With Chicago, Beauty and the Beast, Grease and Smokey Joe's Cafe all still among the hottest tickets in town, this month they are joined by a staging of the BeeGee's Saturday Night Fever (Palladium, from May 5), the triumphant Rent (Shaftesbury, from May 12), Sweet Charity (Bonnie Langford, Victoria Palace, from May 19) and fringe revivals of The Rink and Merrily We Roll Along.
And that's just for starters; later we get an Open Air revival at Regent's Park of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (in the role of Lorelei, Issy Van Randwyck who has just taken the N.Y. cabaret world by storm as one third of Fascinating Aida at the Firebird), as well as the new Washington-tested Whistle Down the Wind and a National Theatre summer Oklahoma! At the Arts there is also the first-ever musical version of No Way To Treat a Lady, the old Rod Steiger drag thriller, but of homegrown musicals there is precious little sign. At last the Atlantic crossover traffic has been reversed, and Broadway is again sending to us about half-a-dozen of their musicals for every one of ours that manages to get to The Great White Way.
Indeed the British actors' union Equity have already started protesting that the unit companies who have come over with Show Boat, Chicago and now Rent vastly outnumber British actors currently on Broadway, but the sooner those ludicrous and often artistically disastrous immigration barriers are torn down forever, the better for the health of the British and American theatre. An actor is an actor is an actor; whether British or Canadian or American or Australian is surely academic.
When is a fringe theatre not a fringe theatre? When it starts to go out on the road, perhaps. Currently, two of London's most chic and triumphant studio spaces, the Almeida and the Donmar Warehouse, have formed second companies to enhance their very limited profits. The Almeida recently had David Hare's The Judas Kiss at the Playhouse (now on Broadway at the Broadhurst), with Liam Neeson as a bearlike Oscar Wilde unable before or after prison to abandon his beloved "Bosie" Douglas, and the Warehouse is about to send into the West End a sprightly double-bill of classic one-acters from the sixties, Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy and Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound.
Lovers of the Great Australian Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) will be glad to know that she and the ever-faithful Madge are now in residence at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where Edna The Spectacle traces her story back to childhood in Mooney Ponds. Just don't sit too close to the front of the stage, unless, of course, you have always wanted to be called onto it by the virago herself, insulted and given your very own waveable gladioli.
WOMEN OF INCONVENIENCE
At last it is out in the open, or rather not: British theatres have far more washrooms for men than for women, and women are no longer prepared to take it sitting down. Indeed, the Federation of British Women have started a national lavatory-building campaign to redress the imbalance, quoting American research, which shows that while men only require 35 seconds for an average visit, women need 91 seconds, hence the longer queues. Even the House of Commons, newly filled with more women MPs than ever before, only has 60 female washrooms as against 200 for men. So, does anywhere in this country bother to take women's conveniences more seriously than men's? Yes, oddly enough, Harrods does: They have 65 female washrooms as against a mere 50 for men. Maybe we should start doing plays there now.
-- By Sheridan Morley