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International news round-up: November 22

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Serebrennikov trial stirs censorship fears

RUSSIA/MOSCOW Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov has gone on trial in Moscow. Serebrennikov, arguably Russia’s best-known director, was detained and put under house arrest in August in a criminal case that raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship. The opening of his new ballet, Nureyev, at the Bolshoi Theatre was cancelled at the last minute in 2017, after which Serebrennikov was placed under house arrest and accused of embezzling millions of rubles of state funding along with the former manager of his Gogol Centre, Alexei Malobrodsky. The pair have denied the charges, responding that they are being punished for Serebrennikov’s criticism of the Russian government.

Leading theatre figures protest against Russian director’s ‘politically motivated’ arrest

Director accused of abuse kills himself

ARGENTINA/ BUENOS AIRES An Argentinean director has killed himself after abuse accusations were made against him. Omar Pacheco, aged 67, had been accused of sexual abuse although police have said no formal charges were made. Female employees of the Teatro Inestable, which Pacheco founded and led, accused him of being “violent, manipulating and abusive” towards women in a statement published on Facebook.

King Kong gets critical beasting

USA/NEW YORK Australian musical King Kong has been savaged by the critics after making its Broadway debut. Global Creatures’ $35 million (£27 million) production opened at the Broadway Theatre in an extensively reworked version from its premiere in 2013 at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne. Written by Jack Thorne with songs by Eddie Perfect and score by Marius de Vries, the show stars Christiani Pitts and Eric William Morris and is directed and choreographed by Brit and Olivier-winner Drew McOnie, who is making his Broadway debut. Praise did come for Pitts’ performances and Kong himself, a seven-metre marionette operated by a dozen puppeteers, designed by Sonny Tilders in Melbourne. Global Creatures however has reported a healthy $7 million (£6.1 million) in pre-sales based on a budget of $6 million (£5.2 million). kingkongbroadway.com

King Kong review at Broadway Theatre, New York – ‘spectacular puppetry, jumbled production’

Belgian Backup to break out at Southbank

BELGIUM/UK A first collaboration between two leading Belgian theatre groups is one of the headliners of the programme for London International Mime Festival 2019. A Total Theatre Award winner at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Backup will play at the Southbank Centre courtesy of Focus and Chaliwate, which fuses physical theatre with animation and video. Along with UK companies such as Gecko, which makes its Barbican mainstage debut with The Wedding, the festival is essentially a European showcase with companies representing Belgium, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway and Spain. mimelondon.com

Cantonese opera’s Reincarnation at Xiqu

HONG KONG After a soft opening on December 30, West Kowloon Cultural District’s landmark Xiqu Centre will officially open on January 20. The inaugural performance at the Cantonese opera flagship is The Reincarnation of Red Plum, directed by artistic director Pak Suet Sin with tickets offered through public ballot. Duncan Pescod, chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, says the Xiqu will establish “a benchmark for venues designed to showcase traditional theatre”. A mere 40 works out of the Chinese opera canon of 367 are commonly performed; the centre aims to redress this by staging them all.

Campaigners call for Theatre Royal revival

AUSTRALIA/ SYDNEY Live theatre is at risk in Sydney, say campaigners who want to force the reopening of the city’s oldest theatre, one of its few large venues. The New South Wales government and Sydney’s mayor have joined theatre practitioners in a campaign for the Theatre Royal – operated by Ambassador Theatre Group – which was closed down in March 2016 for redevelopment of the MLC Centre, where it is based. Live Performance Australia and the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance want to make co-owners Dexus and GPT Group honour an agreement negotiated in 1972 that guaranteed the theatre a permanent home.

The International section is edited by Nick Awde. Contact email: international@thestage.co.uk

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