The new year gets off to a cracking start with Jessica Lange reviving her triumphant Broadway Blanche in Peter Hall's new production of A Streetcar Named Desirethe kindness of strangers has seldom been more apparent . . .
Elsewhere, rumor as yet unconfirmed has it that Stoppard, Hampton and Gray all have new work in the pipeline for the new Trevor Nunn regime at the National Theatre which starts midsummer . . .
Whom Do I Have the Honor of Addressing? is a new Peter Shaffer monologue first heard on BBC radio but now about to appear on stage with Stephanie Cole as the English secretary destroyed by a Hollywood visit . . .
The General from America, into the Barbican this month from Stratford, is a wonderfully dramatic new Richard Nelson account of the traitor Benedict Arnold . . .
Master Class is likely to hit town around Easter with Patti LuPone as the diva Callas . . . Tom and Clem is a new play about the meeting of the MPs Driberg and Attlee immediately after World War IIMichael Gambon and Alec McCowen star.
Staying On is the first staging of Paul Scott's Indian Raj classic, hitherto only seen on television, with Richard Johnson and Prunella Scales as the old Empire hangers-on; Amy's View is the title and all that is currently known about the new David Hare, which will be Eyre's last National production before he hands over the theatre to Trevor Nunn...
Among the classic revivals, Ian Holm will be King Lear for the National and Alan Howard climbs the same mountain for Peter Hall in his new residency at the Old Vic, where Howard and Ben Kingsley will also be in Hall's revival of Waiting for Godot, the play that Sir Peter was the very first to direct for Britain back in 1955 . . . then again, the Almeida has Ralph Fiennes back (after his triumphant Hamlet there and in NY) as Ivanov, while at the Warehouse Adrian Lester is Othello, and at the Old Vic Felicity Kendal and Michael Pennington also star in a rare revival of the classic late Victorian melodrama Waste.
As for the musicals, we get to see (after a long and commercially, if not critically, triumphant road tour) Cliff Richard as Heathcliff; Sian Phillips in her new solo show about Marlene Dietrich, written by Pam Gems of Piaf; while from Broadway we get a scaled-down The Goodbye Girl; the Maltby/Shire revue The Word Is Love; Disney's Beauty and the Beast; and a rare National staging of Lady in the Dark with Maria Friedman of Passion . . . all that and Oklahoma! as the midsummer open-air musical in Regent's Park . . . then to add to all the songbook shows from Buddy through Jolson to the Lieber-Stoller Smokey Joe's Cafe, we are in line for Saturday Night Fever, a Bee Gee celebration, while looking further ahead to the fall there's the promise of a first-ever staging of Leslie Bricusse's Dr. Doolittle score, Chicago back at the Warehouse, A Chorus Line back with Adam Faith as the director, and two winners of last year's Musical of the Year contest in Denmark, The Guardsman (written by two long-time members of the Stratford Ontario acting company) and The Three Musketeers both likely to reach the West End before Christmas. . .
INTO THE RED
Current financial forecasts for the year 1996-7 are that the Royal Opera House will have a deficit of five million dollars, English National Opera at the Coliseum will have one of six million, and the Royal Shakespeare Company is looking at a mere half-million dollar overdraft. Overall forecasts are that come the Millennium, British arts organizations will have a cumulative deficit of 50 million dollars. Just thought you'd like to know.
Sam Mendes, reckoned a likely next leader of the National, until Trevor Nunn belatedly threw his hat into the ring thereby overtaking all other candidates, will stay at his Donmar Warehouse to carve out an exciting program of new musicals. Alex James, of the pop group Blur, is already at work on one about contemporary Soh street life, while another is due from Jarvis Cocker; first on will be The Fix, set during an American election of the near future.
With a British General Election imminent and strong forecasts of a Labour Party victory for the first time in more than 16 years, the question of a new Arts Minister arises, one who will have in his/her grasp the considerable fortune now flowing towards all arts endeavors from Lottery profits. The likeliest candidate has, alas, ruled herself out: Glenda Jackson, after four years on the back opposition benches, is hoping for a higher-profile ministry such as Housing or Welfare. Yet again, it looks as though the Arts Minister will be a junior or no-hope minister with little interest in the arts except as a means of promotion to some other department. The current holder of the job admitted that he could not recall when he had last seen a play or film, and that's about par for the course of arts ministers over here these days.
QUOTE UNQUOTE '97
Richard Eyre, outgoing director of the National: "Instead of celebrating the arts on their own terms, we seek to justify them on the specious grounds of tourist attractions or commodities to be exploited elsewhere; the arts should make their own argument: they are the measure of our civilization, our means of redemption, the image of our humanity."
-- By Sheridan Morley