Sam Mendes’ post-Donmar Warehouse production company is forging ahead after misfiring earlier this year with its inaugural stage project, the European premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire’s play Fuddy Meers, which closed after less than a month in the West End (See News, 7 Jun 2004).

Today, Scamp announced updates to its theatre slate, ranging from the mega new musical of Shrek, expected on Broadway in 2005 ahead of a hoped-for West End transfer, to a collection of one-act comedies, now embarked on a small-scale UK tour, in collaboration with physical theatre company Peepolykus.

Although Mendes himself was expected by many to assume direction of Shrek - The Musical (See The Goss, 15 Oct 2002), that job has now gone to American Jason Moore, whose production of Avenue Q won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical. The book for the new piece – based on the Oscar-winning 2001 animated film about a lonely green ogre who finds happiness with the help of a wise-cracking donkey and a tough-talking princess, which spawned a hit sequel earlier this year - is being written by Fuddy Meers’ Lindsay-Abaire.

Shrek is produced by Mendes and Caro Newling, also formerly of the Donmar, for Scamp in tandem with DreamWorks Pictures, which produced the film version. The production was initiated by DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg and Mendes when the studio made a first-look deal with Mendes in 2003. The musical marks DreamWorks’ first stage venture.

Commenting on the project, Mendes said: “I have loved working as a producer over the last ten years, but the musical of Shrek is certainly the most exciting and ambitious project I have been involved with. To have a book writer as witty and talented as David Lindsay-Abaire is a great gift, and I am particularly thrilled that the ship is being steered by someone as young and gifted as Jason Moore. I know that they and their chosen collaborators (who will be announced over the coming months) will come up with something that is intensely theatrical, yet retains all the warmth, imagination and comic invention of the movies.”

Presented in collaboration with Scamp, Peepolykus brings its new production of All in the Timing to south London’s Battersea Arts Centre this weekend (17 October 2004), as part of a six-week UK tour. The five one-act comedies, written by award-winning American writer David Ives, depict a world where chimps attempt to write Shakespeare, washing machines seduce men and Leon Trotsky can live out 16 versions of his last day. Scamp describes Peepolykus as “modern-day Marx Brothers” with an “inimitable style of comic clowning”.

Next month, Scamp, in association with Hampstead Theatre, present the European premiere of Nilo Cruz’s Broadway play Anna in the Tropics, which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize (See News, 24 Sep 2004). It runs at Hampstead from 30 November 2004 to 8 January 2005 (previews from 25 November). Full casting has now been confirmed for Indhu Rubasingham’s new production. Joining Diana Quick and Joseph Mydell in the high-profile company will be Rachael Stirling, Enzo Cilenti and Peter Polycarpou as well as Lorraine Burroughs and Eric Loren.

Anna in the Tropics is a lyrical play of passion, pride and desire set in the 1920s in a family-run cigar factory in Tampa, Florida – the heart of Cuban America. Keeping up with tradition, a man known as a ‘lector’ is hired to read aloud to the workers. His chosen book is Anna Karenina. The intrigues of Tolstoy’s classic novel unleash emotions that, with the heat of the tropics and the allure of the American dream, create a volatile mix.

Also gearing up for UK production, tipped for early 2005, is the newly commissioned version of JP Miller's play Days of Wine and Roses, written by award-winning Irish playwright Owen McCafferty. Peter Gill, who directed McCafferty’s Scenes from the Big Picture at the National last year, has now been attached as director. 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.

Other works in the Scamp pipeline include (See News, 13 Feb 2004):

  • The first major London revival of Pravda, Howard Brenton and David Hare's award-winning 1985 excoriation of Fleet Street, which is expected to be directed by Edward Hall, whose productions of David Mamet’s Edmond, starring Kenneth Branagh, and Propeller’s A Midsummer Night's Dream won several Theatregoers’ Choice Awards this year.

  • Nick Whitby’s 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. Whitby’s World War I tank drama To the Green Fields Beyond was directed by Mendes at the Donmar in 2000.

  • 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. The new play chronicles the Russian royal family's last three months of captivity before their brutal assassination.

  • A new staging of Shakespeare’s Macbeth directed by Katie Mitchell, whose recent productions include Iphigenia at Aulis, Three Sisters and Ivanov at the National, and coming soon to the Royal Court, the premiere of Kevin Elyot’s Forty Winks.

    Of Scamp’s ongoing film projects, also updated today, there are two with strong theatrical links. They are a screen version of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical bloodbath about the demon barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd, adapted by John Logan; and 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).

    - by Terri Paddock