Magazine article The Spectator

All Change

Magazine article The Spectator

All Change

Article excerpt

I've heard of fin de siecle, but this is getting ridiculous: never can I remember a time of so much change around the West End, whether managerial or architectural. Among those playhouses undergoing what the former American Ambassador used to describe as elements of refurbishment are Sadler's Wells, the Bush, the Royal Court and the Peacock, formerly the Royalty and soon to be for the exclusive use of students at the London School of Economics.

Backstage we have Trevor Nunn taking over the National from Richard Eyre, Eyre's former administrator Genista McIntosh replacing Jeremy Isaacs at Covent Garden, Peter Hall bringing the Old Vic back to life as a producing theatre, the Vaudeville, Ambassadors, Playhouse and Duke of York's under new ownership, and ominous signs that after its present run the Whitehall may be going over to television production at least for a while.

Clearly the Lottery, the fact that an alarming number of central London playhouses are now reaching centenaries with attendant structural problems, and maybe just the approach of the end of the century are responsible for a good deal of this shuffling around: what will emerge we have yet to discover, though a special award for creating havoc and confusion among tourists and cab-drivers alike should go to Stephen Daldry who, in an act of breathtaking territorial aggression, has temporarily renamed the Duke of York's and the Ambassadors Royal Court Upstairs, Downstairs and for all I know the Royal Court across the road and down a bit on the right.

On the credit side, we have been blessed with the opening of Sam Wanamaker's Globe and the reopening after half a century of the Lyceum in a lavish if faintly kitsch refit. Out of town, Bill Kenwright (who with Duncan Weldon has been almost solely responsible for keeping the legitimate West End alive) has just about saved Leatherhead from the bulldozers and is about to repeat the trick at another nearLondon playhouse, the Theatre Royal Windsor. Weldon, meanwhile, has turned Chichester from a faintly drowsy summer festival into the hottest transfer machine in the country, moving anything up to half a dozen shows out of the Minerva and on to the road but still in trouble with the rather more expensive main stage.

At the RSC, which seems to me to be going through a marathon mid-life crisis, there has been the decision to pull back from the Barbican and establish residencies in such regional centres as Plymouth, where welcome from the local resident companies is understandably muted. …

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