Two Premieres, Twankey McKellen, Story at Old VicDate: 22 April 2004
As previously tipped, Kevin Spacey’s inaugural season at London’s Old Vic Theatre will feature Ian McKellen as panto dame Widow Twankey in a new version of Aladdin as well as a high-profile revival of Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story, in which Spacey himself will star as CK Dexter Haven, the role immortalised by Cary Grant in the 1940 Hollywood film.
The season - announced by Spacey and Old Vic producer David Liddiment at a press conference held today at the theatre – will comprise four productions in total, the other two being British premieres of plays. Spacey will direct the inaugural production, Cloaca by Dutch writer Maria Goos, and star in The Philadelphia Story as well as American playwright Dennis McIntyre’s National Anthems, the rights for which Spacey has retained since appearing in a New Haven, Connecticut production in 1989.
Full casting has not yet been announced for the season, running from September 2004 until July 2005, though Spacey today said that more names are likely to be announced by this summer, including some Hollywood big-hitters. In the meantime, in addition to McKellen, the British talent lined up to take part includes Hugh Bonneville, Neil Pearson and Stephen Tompkinson, all of whom will appear in Spacey’s production of Cloaca this autumn.
Contrary to previous suggestions, Shakespeare will not feature in the first year, though Spacey insisted that, in keeping with the theatre’s history, it will do so in future seasons, when he himself will take on many of the leading roles in the classical canon.
As announced today, the four productions in the Old Vic Theatre Company inaugural season are as follows:
Four lifelong friends are reunited in middle age; their lives finely balance between hope and disillusion. Described as a “darkly funny examination of friendship and aspirations”, Cloaca explores, in particular, how men compromise their emotional lives in the quest for money, power and reputation.
Both Cloaca and Goos’ 2001 play for theatre company Het Toneel Speelt were adapted into feature films in Holland. The new stage production will be designed by Rob Jones.
The panto – directed by Sean Mathias, who directed McKellen in last year’s revival of Strindberg’s Dance of DeathMuch Ado About Nothing. Further casting has not yet been announced for Aladdin, though Liddiment said today that the principal boy will be played by a boy and the principal girl by a girl.
Spacey, who first appeared in National Anthems 15 years ago, explained that he wanted to star in it again because “I felt I never got as full a crack at it as I would have liked.” The company had considered updating the text, set in the 1980s, but decided against it because, said Spacey, they found that it’s now much “more powerful as a period piece.”
The new production will be directed by Briton David Grindley, who’s received acclaim for his recent revivals of two other period pieces, Mike Leigh’s 1970s social satire Abigail’s Party and, still playing in the West End, RC Sheriff’s First World War drama Journey’s End. Further casting and creative details have not yet been announced.
Spacey confirmed today that he will play the Cary Grant part of ex-husband CK Dexter Haven, but, contrary to press reports about possible Hollywood co-stars such as Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts or Gwyneth Paltrow, there have not as yet been any discussions with actresses about the part of Lord. Any further casting, Spacey insisted, would be decided by the director, who has yet to be set.
The Philadelphia Story will be co-produced by Triumph Entertainment, who were originally due to mount it at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre with Ally McBeal’s Calista Flockhart in 2001. That run was indefinitely postponed, supposedly because of foot-and-mouth and general election timing concerns (See News, 18 Apr 2001).
NOTE: Public booking for the first three productions in the season opens on 15 May 2004, and for The Philadelphia Story on 30 October 2004.
- by Terri Paddock
For more information on Kevin Spacey’s appointment, the Old Vic & the inaugural season, please see the following: