LONDON — It’s sayonara to the Savoy Opera, the ambitious West End venture to make opera affordable at mainstream musicals prices.
The decision was made May 7 to give up the ghost because of — what else? — poor attendance. “The costs were as budgeted; the income was not as budgeted,” Stephen Waley-Cohen, co-producer of the planned 10-month season with impresario Raymond Gubbay, told Variety.
The opening pair of productions, “The Barber of Seville” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” will play out their limited run in the 1,100-seat Art Deco Savoy Theater through June 19. But the decision not to continue beyond that date was made prior to the start of rehearsals for the second pair, “Carmen” and “L’Elisir d’Amore,” which were to begin performances July 3. (There will, of course, be compensation costs for the artists involved in those productions.)
“Not enough people came,” Waley-Cohen says. “Everything was great, (but) there were not enough customers.”
The producer wouldn’t put an exact figure on the losses incurred but said they would be “significantly below” the £10 million ($17.7 million) Gubbay had previously given as the cost for the entire season.
‘LIFE’ X 9
All part of the ‘Game’
“Lifegame,” the improvisatory performance piece from Improbable Theater, turned up recently at the National for an eight-day run that ended May 13. Whereas those who saw the troupe during its Off Broadway stand several seasons ago will remember a random member of the public being placed centerstage, the National engagement made one crucial adjustment: For all but two performances, the guest was someone connected with the NT itself. They included the theater chaplain, the window cleaner, the health and safety officer and even former artistic director Richard Eyre.
The night I went, Katie Mitchell occupied the hot seat as the nine-person troupe questioned her about her life and then acted out her responses. To start with, there was a mild frisson: How would Mitchell, a director known for her microscopically detailed work on such productions as last summer’s NT “Three Sisters,” take to the inevitably broad brushstrokes with which her childhood dinners, adolescent romances and even a guilt-inducing relationship with her beloved grandmother were painted?
The answer: With good grace, actually, offering in the process a revealing glimpse into her directorial austerity. In one extraordinarily surreal moment, Mitchell played her own grandmother, who was seen telling the acted version of herself (performer Angela Clerkin) to “stop this sadness.” And in a subsequent act of undoubted catharsis, Mitchell managed to get even with Daily Telegraph scribe Charles Spencer, whose negative take on an unnamed Mitchell production apparently was the last review her grandmother read before she died.
As Mitchell recounted the story, the cast leapt into action. “Kill the critic, kill the critic,” they chanted. This critic, happily, escaped unscathed.
Hitting the road
It’s home-stretch time for agent Sebastian Born, who on May 28 is quietly departing the Agency, the London percentery he helped found in 1995. (Before that, Born spent four years at Curtis Brown.) Having seen various writers and directors come into substantial careers — among them Sam Mendes, “Mamma Mia!” writer Catherine Johnson and, yes, Katie Mitchell — Born, an Englishman, is decamping to the Antipodes, which makes sense since his artist-wife is a New Zealander.
“I just want to do something different,” Born says. “God knows, will I survive? Yes, I think so.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell was first to offer a tribute to “Bash” (as he is known). “I think it’s terribly brave of him” to move on, says the director, who was taken on by Born after only her second show. “But he’s the sort of man who will go, ‘My life’s not going to be like this forever and ever’; he’s a very, very intelligent and moral man. I will sorely miss him.”