Following this month’s opening of Richard II, featuring Spacey in the title role, the 2005/6 schedule will continue with, as reported earlier on Whatsonstage.com, the Christmas return of Aladdin with Ian McKellen, and Hollywood legend Robert Altman directing one of Arthur Miller’s last plays, Resurrection Blues (See Today’s Other News). For 11 performances only, the Old Vic will also host the Motion Group’s new British Iraqi version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale (See News, 22 Jul 2005).
Further ahead, to launch the Old Vic Theatre Company’s third season in September 2006, Spacey will reunite with director Howard Davies and the rest of the creative team of the multi award-winning 1998 revival of The Iceman Cometh, which transferred to the Old Vic following its initial season at the Almeida, for another Eugene O'Neill play, 1947’s A Moon for the Misbegotten.
A fourth slot in the season, falling between Resurrection Blues and A Moon for the Misbegotten, has not yet been announced though Spacey says there are currently three contending projects. However, judging by the work announced so far, the second season’s programme is markedly different from that of the first season, which concentrated on new (and according to some critics, sub-standard) work and which saw Spacey making his stage directorial debut as well as appearing in two productions.
Spacey will not be directing anything in 2005/6 and, after Richard II, will remain off stage until A Moon for Misbegotten a full year from now. The reason for the absence, the actor-director said today, came down to a “couple of things”. First, he didn’t want to “overplay my hand” or “overextend myself”. Second, he doesn’t want audiences coming to the Old Vic simply “because I’m on stage or any particular actor is on stage”. Instead, he hopes to “allow the novelty of my being on stage to wear off a little… so that this theatre is not on my shoulders as a performer.”
Despite the media backlash over the past 12 months, audiences have remained supportive of Spacey, as confirmed by a Whatsonstage.com poll in which 80% of voters said that he’d done a good job in his first year (See Big Debate, Jun 2005). Spacey acknowledged that he felt “incredibly encouraged” by the audiences’ enthusiasm as well as the resulting “good shape” the theatre now finds itself in financially after a year in which 250,000 people attended productions that played to an average 70% capacity.
As for the press slings and arrows, Spacey is sanguine and undeterred from his “long-term commitment” to the Old Vic. “I walked into this job fully expecting to come under some criticism,” he said today, adding that it was “fine” for commentators to carp since “everyone has their job to do.” His primary concern, he added, is not garnering critical acclaim but building a loyal following of regular Old Vic patrons. “If somebody doesn’t like a particular play, that isn’t what you focus on. You focus on the job you have to do, which is getting 1,000 people in every night.”
- by Terri Paddock