Spacey Defends Old Vic, Vows to Stay Ten YearsDate: 13 April 2006
Ahead of this weekend’s early closure of Resurrection Blues and an expected five dark months at the Old Vic (See News, 10 Apr 2006), artistic director Kevin Spacey (pictured) has come out fighting in defense of his management of the historic London theatre and reiterated his determination to remain for the duration of a ten-year contract.
Speaking this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Spacey said: “This, the middle of our second season, it’s very early going. Nothing has put me off from our goal and our plan.” And he remained unapologetic about his rocky record to date: “I don’t think that, 18 months in, anyone needs to apologise for having done a programme that’s brought 425,000 people into the theatre. That’s nearly more than two times the number of people that came into the Old Vic in the previous two seasons.”
He added: “We must be doing something right, even though 11 or 12 people who write for newspapers don’t particularly like what we’ve done.” During the first year under Spacey’s regime, the theatre had a particularly rough ride in the press – though a Whatsonstage.com debate found that audiences remained largely behind him (See Big Debate, May 2005) - with a series of critically derided offerings in the first year, starting with the inaugural production of Cloaca, directed by Spacey himself.
Two Christmas seasons of Aladdin, featuring Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey, went down well at the box office. Critically, the tide seemed to turn with Trevor Nunn’s production of Richard II, starring Spacey in the title role, which garnered strong reviews and won two Whatsonstage.com Awards and a Critics’ Circle Award. However, the two productions since - The Soldier’s Tale and Resurrection Blues - have both attracted poor reviews and diminished houses.
Trouble on Blues
Resurrection Blues - the UK premiere of Arthur Miller’s second-to-last play, directed by Hollywood legend Robert Altman - opened at the Old Vic on 2 March 2006 (previews from 14 February) and had been booking until 22 April. It will now finish this Saturday (15 April), one week earlier than planned (See News, 5 Apr 2006).
While demand for tickets to the production – featuring Hollywood stars Neve Campbell and Matthew Modine, Australian-born Academy Award winner Maximilian Schell, Broadway’s Jane Adams and Britons James Fox and Peter McDonald (See News, 3 Jan 2006) – was initially high, the box office slumped after largely disparaging reviews. A “terrible embarrassment” (Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph), “clumsily inept, poorly acted” (Michael Billington, Guardian), “bizarrely awful” (Paul Taylor, Independent) and “a chunk of satirical-religious anecdotage” (Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard) were amongst some of the descriptions levelled by critics (See News, 6 Mar 2006).
Speaking today, Spacey admitted that the production “didn’t go down as well as any of us had hoped”. He said he “knew it was in trouble” when he first saw it performed during rehearsals and, notwithstanding several weeks of intensive work, the company’s jitters struck on press night. “The unfortunate thing that happened on opening night is that the actors hit with a case of the nerves. It kind of fell apart on that evening, and I think the reviews reflected that.”
However, according to Spacey, the critics’ verdicts were not indicative of the run overall. “Everyone was completely open and honest about the fact the show wasn’t where it should have gotten, but I can tell you that after the critics’ night, that cast pulled themselves together. They started to deliver that play in a way that I think audiences saw a much better production than those critics saw.”
He also denied press reports that actress Jane Adams stormed out of the production last week after a fight with co-star Matthew Modine. On Today, Spacey said that “there were artistic differences and there was a mutual decision that she should leave the production.”
Planning & financial responsibility
Despite the disappointment of Resurrection Blues, Spacey stressed that it is “not unusual for a show to come off early” and further it is “not a disaster” that the theatre is now likely to be empty all summer.
Since last September when Spacey announced the current season, the Old Vic has said that they were considering “two or three” different projects for the coming period, which would be programmed, but today Spacey said: “We never announced a production for the summer slot and therefore we haven’t cancelled anything. We just haven’t scheduled anything.”
He further explained: “We took a view that, if we couldn’t find the right production that we felt was financially right to produce, it was in our interest to put all of our resources and all of our efforts into the work that we’re about to announce…. It’s not ideal, but at the same time, we’re trying to get a financially responsible position.”
A press conference will be held in May to announce the Old Vic’s future plans which, Spacey said today, would detail programming for the next three seasons. He hinted that the new schedule would include more classics. It will begin with the already announced revival of Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten in mid-September (See News, 5 Apr 2006). The production reunites Spacey with director Howard Davies, whose 1998 Almeida production of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh brought Spacey to the Old Vic stage for the first time when it transferred to the West End and won him a clutch of Best Actor awards.
- by Terri Paddock