Kevin Spacey Unveils Big Plans for London's Old Vic; Season to Include McKellen, Matthias and Spacey Himself

News   Kevin Spacey Unveils Big Plans for London's Old Vic; Season to Include McKellen, Matthias and Spacey Himself
Kevin Spacey and David Liddiment have unveiled the details for their inaugural season as directors of London's Old Vic Theatre.
Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh
Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh

And, yes, there are some obligatory big names — Spacey himself, Ian McKellen and others. But the big news? According to Spacey, this will be no flash in the pan or fun distraction lasting a season or two. He's in London for the long haul.

Liddiment hailed Spacey's new role, saying, "This is a theatre with a great tradition of the actor-manager. John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson all led companies here, and now Kevin joins that line. And we're proud to be glamorous. This is a glamorous house with a glamorous history." The Oscar-winning actor himself added, "I'm not giving up on my film career entirely. But my primary obligations will now be this theatre and my producing company in Los Angeles. I now live in London. Theatre has been my passion since I was young. I'm not walking away from anything, I'm walking towards something that will be extremely satisfying — beginning a life for this wonderful, special and accessible theatre."

The season will consist of four shows, on which the pair said they had been working for two years. First up, beginning Sept. 16, will be Cloaca by the Dutch writer Maria Goos. This production marks the first time her work will have been performed in the UK. The five-hander will be directed by Spacey, and the cast will include Hugh Bonneville, Lithuanian actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Neil Pearson, Stephen Tompkinson and another actor yet to be announced. The designer will be Rob Jones.

After Cloaca closes Dec. 11, Ian McKellen will appear in drag as Widow Twanky, the traditional pantomime dame in Aladdin. Punned Spacey, "It's not often you get a Sir and a Dame in one knight!" Playing twanky has been a dream of McKellen's for years, and Billie Brown will write a new version of the classic story especially for him. Sean Matthias will direct. The show will run from Dec. 17 until Jan. 22, 2005.

Spacey will make his acting debut with the company in Dannis McIntyre's National Anthems, a play he's previously appeared in in the U.S. He loved it so much then that, mindful that he hadn't done the part as well as he'd wanted to, he'd held on to the rights ever since and was waiting for the right moment to do it again. A hard-hitting parable about the American dream, the show will open Feb. 1. David Grindley will direct. Spacey will also act in the following production, Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story beginning May 3. Co-produced with Triumph Entertainment, this will be the first West End outing for the tale, made famous by the 1940 film version that starred Katharine Hepburn. The female lead hasn't yet been cast, and Spacey has not yet decided whether to cast a big Hollywood name or a newcomer.

For future seasons, Spacey pledged that he would do some Shakespeare. He has agreed to appear in at least two productions every season. And as the company progresses, some productions may be taken to New York — some shows may even start in New York and then transfer to the Old Vic.

Both men were ardent in their insistence that there would always be lower- priced tickets for students. And, putting their box-office where their beliefs are, they're reserving 100 best seats at every performance for under 25's at 12 pounds each. Other tickets will be at standard West End prices, ranging from around 10 pounds to around 40 pounds. Aladdin will have two whole houses at a reduced price for the local South London community.

And the future? "We'll try to bring new remarkable talents in to the theatre," said Spacey, citing the success of nearby institutions like the National Theatre, Saatchi and Tate Galleries and hoping that the Old Vic can be part of the rejuvenation of the area.

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