In a rare interview given to a selection of journalists from U.S. publications (including this correspondent), the actor-director insisted that his project is on course.
“We set out with one aim this first season — to fill this theatre,” said Spacey. “We’ve had a quarter of a million people through the doors over the course of four plays. We more or less equalled the West End records for the advance ticket sales for a play.”
Spacey acknowledged that some of the reviews for the season, which has included Cloaca (directed by Spacey), Aladdin, National Anthems and The Philadelphia Story (the last two starring Spacey), have not been good. But, he claimed, this was no more than expected: “Starting a company is a long, hard, difficult road. You don’t even develop your own identity for about five years, and I think it’ll probably take a decade to completely build this company. The Almeida, the National, the RSC all took a long time to establish themselves and start getting universally good reviews. Richard Eyre and Trevor Nunn both at times got tortuous notices when they ran the National. So I expected it. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. It’s not been as personal as I thought it would be.”
His next part for the company will be the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard II, to be directed by Trevor Nunn. Asked why he had chosen the more lyrical of Shakespeare’s Richards, when many had this extrovert actor pegged for a future Richard III, he replied, “It was a play that neither Trevor Nunn nor I had ever done and we both love it. And we rather like doing the unexpected. I may at some point take on the other Shakespeare roles that people might expect. Richard II is not an easy play, but it’s a remarkable play and I’m enjoying getting my feet wet as I feel my way into it.”
Although there has been no announcement about the full schedule for next year, it is known that Aladdin will be revived (again to star Ian McKellen). As for the other two plays, Spacey gave little away but "suspects" that he will act in another one besides the Shakespeare (there have been reports in the trade press that an Arnold Wesker play will feature at some point). He also, in defending his choice of Maria Goos’ Cloaca (“It’s a beautiful play for actors, and I want to do new European work”), said that in the future the company would “probably do another play of hers.” He retains his previously stated ambition of transferring productions to the U.S. and vice versa. One of Spacey’s main concerns is the renovation of the theatre itself. It is in such bad condition that, he said, during performances on rainy days the actors can hear water dripping through the roof over the dress circle, where it was damaged by a bomb during World War Two. “We need about £20 million to renovate the theatre, so that in fifty years this building is still standing,” confessed Spacey. To that end, the company has applied for government funding.
Spacey was upbeat about the company’s fortunes. “Please don’t feel sorry for us just because we’ve had some bad reviews,” he said. “We have around 1,050 people here every night. Sometimes the critics will be with you and sometimes they won’t. The audiences have been with us. I love coming to work every day."