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London to Spacey: It stinks

Old Vic artistic director's first production, 'Cloaca,' is excoriated by critics.

September 30, 2004|From Associated Press

LONDON — "A stinker." "Trite, manipulative." "Tedious drivel."

They were presumably not the reviews for which Kevin Spacey was hoping as he launched his first season at the helm of London's famous Old Vic Theatre with "Cloaca," a play about four men in the throes of a midlife crisis.

"Cloaca," which Spacey directs, was considered an eccentric choice for the Old Vic's new artistic director, since the Dutch author, Maria Goos, is unknown in Britain.

Some critics acknowledged being offended by the title, which is Latin for sewer.

"By the end of the evening my eyebrows had risen so high that they had crawled over the top of my head and ended up, cowering with dismay, at the back of my neck," wrote Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph under the headline, "Spacey's Down in the Gutter With This Stinker."

The action takes place in the Amsterdam loft home of Pieter, played by Stephen Tompkinson, a gay local government officer who has permission to take a painting on each of his birthdays from the city's art depository. One of the painters has become fashionable, causing his works to soar in value, and the council decides it wants the pictures back. But Pieter has sold some of them. He seeks help from three friends.

London Times critic Benedict Nightingale said the play was short on originality and tension. Neil Smith of BBC News Online called the production "about two-and-a-half hours of the most tedious drivel ever flushed up on a London stage."

After "Cloaca," which runs through Dec. 11, Spacey will direct a Christmas pantomime, "Aladdin," starring Ian McKellen as the Widow Twankey. He also plans to star in two plays in his first season: "National Anthems," Dennis McIntyre's parable about American materialism, and "The Philadelphia Story," a 1939 play that became the classic movie comedy with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

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