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Almodóvar, Fry & Spacey’s Plow Feature at Old Vic

By • West End
Artistic director Kevin Spacey today announced details of his fourth season at the Old Vic. As previously tipped (See The Goss, 11 May 2007), it will launch in September with the stage adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar’s Oscar-winning 1999 film All About My Mother, followed by a panto blast of Stephen Fry’s new version of Cinderella (See News, 9 May 2006).

In the new year, Hollywood actor Spacey will take to the stage to play a Hollywood producer in a revival of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow. The season will conclude next June with, as previously reported (See News, 3 Apr 2007), the Bridge Project double bill transfer of Hamlet and The Tempest, in which former Donmar Warehouse artistic director Sam Mendes returns to the London stage after a six-year absence to direct Stephen Dillane (as Hamlet and Prospero respectively).

All About My Mother

All About My Mother will open on 4 September (previews from 25 August) and will continue to 24 November 2007. The premiere production marks the first major Pedro Almodóvar stage adaptation in 20 years and the first time ever that the Spanish filmmaker has consented to his work being produced in English.

The new play is adapted by Samuel Adamson (Southwark Fair, Pillars of the Community), directed by Tom Cairns (Aristocrats, Phaedre) and designed by Hildegard Bechtler, with lighting by Bruno Poet and sound by Christopher Shutt. It features the film score by long-time Almodóvar collaborator Alberto Iglesias supplemented with new stage music by Ben and Max Ringham.

The project began in 2002 when Australian-born producer Daniel Sparrow approached Almodóvar’s film company El Deseo with the idea. The Old Vic and Sam Mendes’ company Neal Street Productions came on board as co-producers two years ago. Talking about why he agreed to the All About My Mother adaptation, Almodóvar explained: “There is a lot of theatre in my film, a big part of the action takes place in theatrical spaces, the dressing rooms, the corridors, the stage, the stalls, the theatre façade and surroundings.

“After reading Samuel Adamson’s adaptation, I felt something very special. For the first time, I was able to contemplate my work as a writer and director from a distance. It happened in the Old Vic’s rehearsal room, while the workshop based on Adamson’s text was taking place. It was a very touching experience for me, not related at all to vanity. The characters I had created for the film did not yield an inch of their nature, yet fitted the stage perfectly, as it if was their natural environment… Adamson’s text is a faithful reflection, the contemplation of which has done me good.”

A hymn to the spirit of women, All About My Mother revolves around single mother Manuela who, after the death of her 17-year-old son, heads to Barcelona in search of his father, who never knew he had a child. Once there, Manuela gets caught up in the lives of three women: the famous actress her son admired, a pregnant nun and a long-lost transvestite friend. The film starred Penelope Cruz, Cecilia Roth and Marisa Paredes. No casting has yet been announced for the stage production, though Lesley Manville has been tipped for the role of Manuela (See The Goss, 29 May 2007).

Pantomime & David Mamet

Following two years of Christmas success with Ian McKellen playing Widow Twankey in Aladdin (in 2004 and 2005), the Old Vic will present a new pantomime this festive season. Cinderella - which will be actor, comedian, novelist and director Stephen Fry’s panto writing debut – runs from 9 December 2007 (previews from 4 December) to 20 January 2008. It will feature music by Anne Dudley, whose credits include Jeeves and Wooster, in which Fry starred, amongst other screen credits. No further creative or casting details have yet been announced, although Fry – who hasn’t trod the boards since fleeing with stage fright from Simon Gray’s Cell Mates in 1995 – is reportedly in talks to appear as the narrator (See The Goss, 29 May 2007).

Fry said today: “It may sound wearingly like an attempt to be cool, hip and relevant to say that pantomime is interactive, but as something of a computer and gadget geek, I’ve yet to find any gizmo from the digital age that can match pantomime for genuine interactivity… I’ve tried to remember that for many of the children who come, it will be their first Cinderella, their first pantomime, their first visit to a theatre, and that for many adults, it will be their first return to pantomime since their childhoods. Pantomime should be the beginning of a never-ending love affair with theatre. Oh yes it should.”

Cinderella is followed, from January to April 2008 (exact dates tbc) by Speed-the-Plow. In David Mamet’s 1988 satire, Kevin Spacey – currently starring in the Old Vic revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten on Broadway – will return to the stage to play greedy Hollywood producer Bobby Gould who, in planning his next film, is torn between making art versus money in a battle involving fellow producer Charlie Fox and a beautiful secretary.

Mamet’s three-hander was last seen in the West End in 2000 in a Peter Gill production that featured, in two different casts, Patrick Marber, Mark Strong and Neil Morrissey. No further casting or creatives have yet been announced for the Old Vic revival.

The Bridge Project

As previously reported (See News, 3 Apr 2007), Sam Mendes will direct Stephen Dillane in Hamlet and The Tempest, which will run at the Old Vic from May to June 2008 (exact dates tbc), concluding the rest of the season announced today. The productions are part of a three-year transatlantic venture forged between Mendes, the Old Vic and New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where the productions will originate in January.

As part of the new Bridge Project, each year a single company of leading British and American actors will be assembled to perform a double bill of classic works at BAM and the Old Vic, as well as at least one other theatre internationally. Between its dates in New York and London next year, Hamlet and The Tempest will have a month-long residency at the Piccolo Theatre in Milan.

Stephen Dillane’s recent credits include Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, The Real Thing, The Coast of Utopia and his solo Macbeth on stage, and Welcome to Sarajevo, The Hours and Fugitive Pieces on screen.

Following the inaugural double bill, Mendes will direct The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard in 2009, starring Simon Russell Beale as Leontes in the Shakespeare and Lopakhin in the Chekhov. A third pairing of plays for 2010 is still to be confirmed.

- by Terri Paddock


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