Old Vic: Spacey Announces New Season

After unprecedented levels of press speculation and critical griping, Kevin Spacey, the troubled artistic director of the Old Vic, has finally announced the 2006/07 line-up at the landmark South Bank theatre.

The coming year will see a major 50th anniversary revival of Osborne’s The Entertainer, set to star Robert Lindsay, and further productions of Shakespeare – after the theatre’s production of Richard II gained them their best reviews to date – courtesy of Edward Hall’s all-male company Propeller.

Their production of The Taming Of The Shrew will transfer to the Old Vic following a stint at Stratford as part of the RSC Complete Works Festival.

The season begins in September with the previously announced production of Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon For The Misbegotten confirmed to run from 26 September to 23 December. The production reunites Spacey with director Howard Davies, whose production of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh at the Almeida first brought Spacey to the Old Vic when it transferred to the West End. That was back when Spacey was still riding on the acclaim for his roles in The Usual Suspects and Se7en and could do no wrong in the eyes of the critics. The part won him a number of Best Actor awards to add to his Academy Award for Suspects.

This will be followed in the new year with Propeller’s productions of Taming Of The Shrew and Twelfth Night set to run in rep with previews starting on the 5th January. Sean Holmes’ production of The Entertainer will be next, with Robert Lindsay in the Archie Rice role made famous by Laurence Olivier. Lindsay recently performed the part in a reading at the Royal Court as part of their anniversary celebrations.

Though there will be no reoccurrence of Aladdin this Christmas, Stephen Fry has been approached to write a new version of Cinderella for the following festive period. There are also plans to stage Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests, though there are no confirmed dates for this production. Further ahead the Old Vic will be home to new work created through the Old Vic, New Voices programme, including Bette and Joan by Malcolm McKay, about the feuding film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and the latest work by the prolific Frank McGuinness, whose adaptation of Phaedra is currently on at the Donmar Warehouse and whose new play, There Came A Gypsy Riding is part of the Almeida’s recently announced 2006/07 line-up.

“I’m thrilled that Stephen Fry is writing a new panto for the Old Vic. I think theatregoers of all ages are in for a real treat.”
– Kevin Spacey

Significantly Spacey has also recruited three associate directors to the theatre’s creative team. Marcus Warchus (previously tipped as artistic director for the Old Vic before Spacey), Anthony Page (director of the acclaimed Kathleen Turner-starring revival of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?) and Edward Hall. One of the key, and most justifiable, of the criticisms levelled at Spacey is that he has been poorly advised in his creative decisions; by surrounding himself with people with a stronger theatrical track record, he may well alleviate this in the future.

Though things were improving at the theatre following a tepid debut year, with Spacey taking the lead in Trevor Nunn’s well-received production of Richard II and the return of a dragged-up Sir Ian McKellen in Aladdin, this period of critical success was brief. The double bill of a worthy but dull production of The Soldier’s Tale and the unanimously panned staging of Arthur Miller’s Resurrection Blues by Robert Altman, undid much of the goodwill Spacey was slowly managing to generate. The situation was exacerbated by Spacey’s decision to keep the theatre dark over the summer months after planned interim productions fell through. The Oscar winning actor ended up defending himself and his artistic tenure at the Old Vic at length in the Guardian and on Radio 4.

The production of Jeffery Bernard Is Unwell that was at one point mooted to fill these dark months at the Old Vic, but subsequently fell through, will now play at the Garrick once the current run of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest comes to an end.

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