Art of luvvie flouncing makes a comeback

  • @mjpmccarthy
FLOUNCING is back. Three London theatres last week suffered from that grand old stage tradition, the dramatic exit of the star - and in two cases, it was the entire cast.

First the Royal Opera House lost the conductor for its new production of Massenet's Cherubin. The Russian maestro Gennadi Rozhdestvensky took his baton and flounced out of Covent Garden in majestic manner after 'irreconcilable artistic differences' with the director, Tim Albery.

Then the Young Vic lost the entire four-strong cast for its forthcoming production of Kenneth McLeish's new play, Omma, who walked out after a 'fundamental difference of opinion' with the director, Tim Supple.

Finally all six actors in After Hamlet, at the fringe New Grove theatre, quit the production and forced its closure after only four nights, following 'a succession of artistic and managerial conflicts' with the author, Paul Pickering.

After Hamlet, which turns around a payroll robbery at Kensington Palace, was scheduled to run at the New Grove theatre until 26 February. According to Mr Pickering, the cast's departure followed their attempts to rewrite his script; Karen Gerald, the theatre's director, agreed that the actors had 'felt the need to develop the play, change lines and flesh out characters'.

Omma, a recasting of the story of Oedipus and the other Theban legends that form the core of much Greek tragedy, was due to open at the Young Vic on 1 March and will now be delayed for a week while four new actors take over the roles. The original cast found difficulty in adapting to the rehearsal methods of Mr Supple, the theatre's new joint artistic director. 'We found ourselves at an impasse,' he said last week.

Covent Garden's Cherubin has fared best of the three - the production will open tomorrow (on time) with the Canadian conductor Mario Bernardi replacing Mr Rozhdestvensky. The Russian is reported to have demanded a public apology from Mr Albery after an open row over the tempos of the piece (Mr Albery is believed to have wanted a quicker pace). When Mr Albery declined to apologise, flouncing took place.

Such stagy departures are much rarer now - perhaps, says the Independent on Sunday theatre critic Irving Wardle, because directors and actor-managers are less tyrannical than they once were.

'In the Thirties, Ralph Richardson was being directed in rehearsal by Basil Dean, who was a terrible tyrant,' he said. 'Dean criticised an exit of Richardson's, and asked him if he could learn to leave the stage like a gentleman.

'Richardson murmured that he believed he could, left the stage, continued on past the wings, the dressing rooms and the stage door, caught a taxi to the railway station and returned to his country home, instructing his wife not to call him to the telephone for three days. The play didn't open.'

(Photograph omitted)