Richard Attenborough dies aged 90

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Actor and director Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90. Born in Cambridge in 1923, Attenborough began acting aged 12 and made his professional stage debut aged 18. The RADA graduate was one of the original cast members of The Mousetrap at the Ambassadors in 1952. He also starred in stage productions of The Little Foxes at the Piccadilly Theatre, Arthur Laurents’ The Way Back and 1952 comedy Sweet Madness.

Attenborough was a respected screen actor, appearing in more than 70 films with a breakthrough role as Pinkie in 1947’s Brighton Rock, a role he had previously performed on stage at The Garrick Theatre, and starring in other cinematic milestones such as The Great Escape, Doctor Dolittle and Jurassic Park. Behind the camera, Attenborough became an award-winning director, with his film Gandhi winning eight Oscars in 1982.

Attenborough was appointed a CBE in 1967 and knighted in 1976, being made a life peer in 1993.

He is survived by his wife, Sheila Sim, whom he married in 1945, his daughter, Charlotte, and his son, Michael, theatre director and former artistic director of the Almeida Theatre.

Theatre figures feature in New Year honours

66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)Leading figures from the theatre industry have been recognised in 2013’s New Year honours.

Scottish actor Ewan McGregor is to receive an OBE for his services to drama, as will Adrian Lester, who will play Othello in Nicholas Hytner’s new production at the National later this year.

Other recipients include: RADA registrar Patricia Myers, for her services to higher education; Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington; theatre producer and chief executive of Nimax theatres, Nica Burns; and Talawa Theatre Company’s artistic director Patricia Cumper.

Actress Joanna Page hits out at Lloyd Webber reality show

‘Insulting’: Actress Joanna Page attacks Lloyd Webber’s reality show

Stage and screen actress Joanna Page has called the latest reality television show to find the next stage star ‘disgusting’. The RADA graduate criticised the ITV series Superstar and shows with a similar format.

The programme saw Andrew Lloyd Webber search for a new male lead to perform the role of Jesus in the forthcoming arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. The finale, broadcast last night, saw 31-year-old Ben Forster win the reality TV show. He will join Chris Moyles, Tim Minchin and former Spice Girl Mel C in performances around the UK.

Page, speaking to The Stage, voiced her concerns that reality television programmes overlooked performers already working in the industry: ‘There are actors and musical theatre performers who have given their whole lives to the profession because it is their passion, and then you have some bloody van driver on a show saying “I didn’t do this when I was 12 but I wish I had done, but I didn’t have the guts”. Well, that’s your problem, because you obviously didn’t have the passion, spirit, drive, and the determination, to dedicate your whole life to it.’

The Gavin and Stacey actress also questioned Andrew Lloyd Webber’s choice not to cast actors he has previously worked with, labelling it as ‘insulting’ to those who had performed in his previous shows.

She also went on to query how useful the arrangement of the series really was in showing the true potential amongst the contestants, as the show had no real platform to display their acting ability. Page said: ‘I am finding myself really happy now that they are left with people who aren’t suitable. There is no one with the charisma, the authority, the stature or the maturity to play Jesus.’

This isn’t the first time Superstar has come under attack. When plans for the show were first announced Lloyd Webber’s long time collaborator Sir Tim Rice voiced his discontent that Jesus Christ Superstar would be getting the ‘tasteless reality television treatment’.

Rice said at the time: ‘Andrew wants to rehash things all the time, but I really don’t think Superstar needs that. Those shows are relentlessly downmarket, which is fine if the show is a lightweight bit of fluff.

‘It’s just possible that it might be the most sophisticated, tasteful show hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I doubt it. It sounds tacky and I really don’t think Andrew should do it.’

SOLT awards 13 lucky drama students with bursaries

SOLT president Mark Rubinstein, judge Lee Menzies and this year’s bursary winners

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) has awarded this year’s Laurence Olivier bursaries to 13 students attending drama schools across the UK. This year’s scheme saw £55,000 donated to drama students entering their final year of training.

SOLT president Mark Rubinstein said of the applicants: ‘Following a highly competitive audition process and a remarkable display of ability, our 13 winners have been chosen. These bursaries allow the students to concentrate on their critical final year of studies by easing the financial pressures of drama school. I am looking forward to seeing them all on West End stages very soon.’

First established in 1987, to mark Sir Laurence Olivier’s 80th birthday, the bursary scheme supports those training at drama school that are experiencing financial difficulties. Previous winners of the bursary have included Michael Sheen, Ewan McGregor and Patterson Joseph.

Grants range from £1,000 to £7,500 and are awarded by a panel of judges from the industry. Each year principals from selected drama schools from around the country choose two students to be put forward for the bursary prize. All applicants then audition in London’s West End in front of the bursary judges. The panel is headed by West End producer Lee Menzies, who has worked on plays such as Top Hat and Tell me on a Sunday.

This year saw two winners from the Drama Centre, along with other successful students from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, Central School of Speech and Drama, Mountview, RADA and others.

To find out more information about the Laurence Olivier bursaries, along with other financial schemes offered by SOLT such as The Carmen Silvera Bursary, visit http://www.solt.co.uk/bursaries.html

PERFORM 2012: The round-up

PERFORM 2012 took place on 9–11 March at London’s Kensington Olympia. It is the sister event to MOVE IT, a dance event for performers, students and teachers. The event was busy, with many young students eager to dance and perform at the three-day event.

PERFORM was given its own corner of the hall, and was designed for those with interests in theatre and drama. There were big names exhibiting, such as Spotlight, The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Equity and The Stage. There was also a large selection of other college and performing institutions, talking to potential students and teachers about their courses and facilities. Companies were present not only to sell their products and courses, but also to provide advice and guidance to people considering a career in theatre.

There were a number of useful seminars running throughout the weekend, led by some very interesting and influential industry representatives. Teaching Drama attended ‘Teaching and the performing arts’, which was taken by Stagecoach course director Veronica Bennetts and founder Stephanie Manuel.

They talked about Stagecoach’s teacher training course, which can either help new teachers develop their skills, or provide a refresher course to teachers with more experience. The course, which runs twice a year, is now full until November – a testament to its popularity. Veronica Bennetts spoke very passionately about the need to teach creatively and to keep the initial enthusiasm students have at 3–4 years old through to the upper end of primary school.

Another useful seminar was ‘Drama school auditions – a guide to drama teachers’, which was leadby a former senior director at RADA, Ellis Jones (head of acting at RADA from 1993–2003). Also there to offer advice on the audition process was Lovesong actor Edward Bennett.  Both men provided useful tips and hints for preparing students for auditions.  With some audition panellists seeing 3000 students a year, this was a useful insight into what can help a student to stand out from the crowd.

Over the weekend there were also some hands-on, practical workshops available. There was an acting workshop for the under 12s, a workshop on essential voice warm-ups and an introduction to unarmed stage combat for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush.

While the major dance stage did occasionally impose upon the intimate talks taking place in smaller rooms, it did give the event an exciting atmosphere. PERFORM is not as big as MOVE IT, but this in fact becomes one of its benefits, as it gives students, teachers and performers the opportunity to network and chat to important figures in the industry.

So, if you’re a teacher with students considering drama school, or you yourself are thinking about further study through an MA or teaching course, come along next year and find out all you need to know from the people in the know.

www.performshow.co.uk