While, up until the past few weeks, the Old Vic management had been in discussions about “two or three” different projects they were keen to produce, a spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com this morning that they were unable to make “all the pieces of the jigsaw” come together in time and so had now decided to cease production over the summer – for the first time since Spacey took over as artistic director and launched the Old Vic as a producing house in September 2004. The programme for the next season, which commences with A Moon for the Misbegotten, is due to be announced within the next month.
The spokesperson confirmed that discussions had already been had with other producers about receiving shows at the Old Vic in the coming months (See The Goss, 5 Apr 2006). Although again, none of those have come to fruition yet, it is possible that an external production could move in as a partial filler during the interim. Opportunities to hire the venue out for conferences and other corporate events will also be explored.
During the first year under Spacey’s regime, the theatre had a rough ride in the press – though a Whatsonstage.com survey 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 small houses.
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 on 15 April, one week earlier than planned.
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 in the newspapers the night after the press performance (See News, 6 Mar 2006).
A Moon for the Misbegotten 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. It’s due to open in September, although final dates have not been confirmed and booking has not yet opened.
- by Terri Paddock