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Mendes Details First Theatre Projects Post-Donmar

By • West End
Sam Mendes (pictured) has released preliminary details of his first stage projects since stepping down, after ten years, as artistic director of Donmar Warehouse (See “The End of an Era”, Features, 18 Nov 2002). Scamp - the London-based film and theatre production company that Mendes set up with Pippa Harris (former BBC head of Drama Commissioning) and Caro Newling (his executive producer at the Donmar) – has announced its first development slate, which includes a dozen theatre productions (See The Goss, 4 Jun 2002).

Although it has not yet been confirmed how many of these will be directed by Mendes himself, a spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that it is the intention that he will direct a selection of the productions, which cover new writing, musicals and adaptations of classic films, several co-produced in association with subsidised theatres. Full casting, exact timeframes and venues have not yet been announced.

The key Scamp stage projects currently in evolution are:

  • First up is the UK premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's off-Broadway hit Fuddy Meers. It was originally due to be seen at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe, a season which was scrapped in favour of a direct West End staging. However, first finances and then scheduling conflicts for its star Jane Krakowski derailed the production (See News, 2 Aug 2002). Rather than Stephen Henry as previously planned (See The Goss, 13 August 2003), Elmina’s Kitchen’s Angus Jackson will direct Julia Mackenzie in the anarchic comedy tracing 24 hours in the life of amnesiac Claire. Co-produced with Fiery Angel and Birmingham Rep, the production will open first at Birmingham, where it runs 16 April to 8 May 2004, ahead of an expected West End transfer.

  • Award-winning playwright Owen McCafferty (Scenes from the Big Picture, Closing Time, Shoot the Crow) is currently writing a newly commissioned version of JP Miller's play Days of Wine and Roses. Miller's portrait of a couple's alcohol addiction was made into the 1962 film of the same name, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.

  • Edward Hall – whose productions of David Mamet’s Edmond, starring Kenneth Branagh, and Propeller’s A Midsummer Night's Dream have just won several Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards - will direct the first major London revival of Pravda, Howard Brenton and David Hare's award-winning 1985 excoriation of Fleet Street.

  • Nick Whitby – whose World War I tank drama To the Green Fields Beyond Mendes premiered at the Donmar in 2000 – has been commissioned to write a stage adaptation of the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch film To Be or Not to Be, the classic comedy of a ramshackle theatrical troupe who manage to outwit a group of Nazis by playing the roles of, and for, their lives.

  • Further British projects currently in development include the UK première of Anna in the Tropics, a new production of Nilo Cruz's 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning play; a new production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth directed by Katie Mitchell (Three Sisters, Ivanov at the National); and a newly commissioned play by Heidi Thomas (who wrote the screenplays for the recent TV adaptation of Madame Bovary and the film I Capture the Castle) chronicling the Russian royal family's last three months of captivity before their brutal assassination.

  • Scamp is also currently developing the world stage première of Shrek, The Musical, to be produced by Mendes and Newling in tandem with DreamWorks Pictures, the force behind the 2001 animated film that became a huge Oscar-winning hit (See The Goss, 12 Oct 2002). Shrek is the story of a lonely green ogre who finds happiness with the help of a wise-cracking donkey and a tough-talking princess. The company has been working with a number of other US producers as well and also plans to continue an association with the Brooklyn Academy of Music which staged Mendes’ Donmar farewell double bill of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya last year.

    Of the half dozen planned film projects also announced by Scamp today, there are several with theatrical links. They include a screen version of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical bloodbath about the demon barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, adapted by John Logan; Tom Fool, a period thriller about the adventures of a 17th-century court jester, written by playwright and screenwriter Tim Firth (Neville’s Island, The Safari Party, Our House on stage, Calendar Girls, Preston Front on screen); and a contemporary horror film written by playwright Phyllis Nagy (Butterfly Kiss, The Strip, Never Land).

    - by Terri Paddock


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