Nudes Still News in West End
Four months after it opened at the Gielgud, The Graduate is still London's number one theatre story. It is clinging to the headlines because, on Aug. 8, the part of Mrs. Robinson was taken over by Jerry Hall, famous for being Mick Jagger's ex-wife, and not famous for her acting ability. Just as before, when Kathleen Turner opened in the play, many critics defied tradition by reviewing the previews. Or rather they reviewed the celebrity audience (Jagger was there and caused a traffic jam in Shaftesbury Avenue), Hall's fleeting nude scene, Hall's leopard print lingerie, and other such nonsense. Hall's performance was of secondary interest.
After opening night, however, the press got the knives in. According to the Daily Mail, Hall is "as wooden as a toothpick." The Guardian declared sarcastically that "Sarah Bernhardt's reputation is safe." The London Evening Standard, originally the play's unofficial publicity machine, evidently felt that the story has gone stale. The paper cruelly listed all the damning notices (twice), then twisted its knife by claiming that there are now plenty of seats for the former hit. "The production has lost its sting," said the Standard's critic Nicholas de Jongh. How are the mighty fallen.
'Stones' on a Roll
The London press appears to have deserted The Graduate in order to get behind a Fringe play with a cast of two and no set. Marie Jones' Stones in His Pockets, a comedy about a Hollywood film company shooting a movie in an Irish village, picked up good notices at the little Tricycle theatre in north west London, but then nothing short of adulation when it transferred to the West End. The biggest hit ever staged at the struggling New Ambassadors theatre, it is the number one choice of no less than five critics, and has now transferred again, this time to the larger Duke of York's. It will open on Broadway on St Patrick's Day, 2001.
As I revealed last month, Tom Hanks caught the show early in its run. Almost every Hollywood star visiting London (to date Dustin Hoffman, Calista Flockhart, Tracey Ullman, Mel Brooks, and Anne Bancroft) has followed. "I've got to see these guys," said Kevin Spacey (see next story). "Everybody is talking about them."
The play is inspired by a real incident, when the movie, The Playboys, was shot in the village of Redhills, County Cavan, in 1992. "A Hollywood circus descended, with stars in caravans bigger than houses," explains author Jones. "The locals' lives were turned upside down." She intended her play to have a full production, but ended up with two actors sharing 15 male and female parts on a bare stage because "we were skint." It's a tribute to the brilliant comic versatility of the performers (currently Louis Dempsey and Sean Sloan or Conleth Hill and Sean Campion) that audiences cannot imagine Stones in His Pockets being played any other way.
Kevin Spacey Supports Old Vic
The latest fund-raiser for the Old Vic theatre is spearheaded by Kevin Spacey, who flew into London to talk to the press at the West End's trendy Ivy restaurant. Oscar-winner Spacey, who revealed he first visited the Old Vic when he was aged five, went on to star here as Hickey in The Iceman Cometh. He's now a member of the Old Vic's management, and has sunk a reputed £100,000 in Old Vic Productions Ltd. "I want to use myself as a magnet to attract great writers, actors, and directors back to this theatre that has kind of been lost," Spacey said. He was apparently referring to Sir Peter Hall's recent, calamitous repertory season, which effectively lead to the theatre's closure in 1998. Spacey gave details of Old Vic Productions, in which the public is invited to invest (a minimum stake of £2000 in return for attractive new tax breaks). He claims that John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe would love to work at the Vic, and that his personal dream is to star in a play opposite his idol, Peter O'Toole.
Although critics noted little rapport between Elaine Paige and Jason Scott Lee, the stars of The King and I at the London Palladium, Scott Lee's sudden departure from the show, July 29, is reportedly due to the illness of his father. Scott Lee's understudy, Paul Nakauchi, stepped in.... Once again comedian Jackie Mason premiered his new show in London, prior to Broadway. Up Close and Personal played at the Royal Opera House's new Linbury Studio, Aug. 15-19.... Off-Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch gets its London premiere at the Playhouse in September. Michael Cerveris is Hedwig.... Sam Mendes, artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, whose first film, American Beauty, won five Oscars, will direct Nick Whitby's new play, To the Green Fields and Beyond, which opens at the Donmar Sept. 14. Dougray Scott, the villain in Mission: Impossible 2, stars. Next year, Mendes will return to Hollywood to direct Tom Hanks in the gangster movie, The Road to Perdition.... French crooner Sacha Distel makes his stage debut at the age of 68 when he takes over the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago at the Adelphi. His first night is Sept. 18.... Daryl Hannah will play the lead in a new production of George Axelrod's The Seven Year Itch, which opens at the Queen's in October. Producer Laurence Myers hints that Hannah will strip.... Macaulay Culkin is due to make both a comeback and his London stage debut in Madame Melville by Richard Nelson, but no theatre has been announced.
This year's Edinburgh Festival was as controversial as always, with new scandals breaking every other day. There were mass walkouts from the Dublin Abbey Theatre's production of Ramon Maria del Valle-Inclan's trilogy, Barbaric Comedies, a Main Festival presentation at the King's theatre. Locals recoiled from the scene in which a cleric masturbates over a skeleton. On the Fringe comedians Scott Capurro and Ian Stone are both in trouble for alleged anti-Semitism. At the Pleasance theatre, Capurro provoked protest with his line, "Holocaust Schmolocaust, can't they find something else to whine about?" but the American comic refused to cut it. A show at the Assembly Rooms was billed as A Little Piece of K**e, even though comedian Stone is Jewish and the word "kike" is virtually unknown in the U.K. Stephen Joyce, grandson of James Joyce, called in vain for Molly Bloom: A Musical Dream to be banned. The show, a "sexually provocative" musical based on the last chapter of Ulysses, opened as scheduled at "C," and will transfer to London's Jermyn Street theatre in November. Probably the most outrageous show, Puppetry of the Penis, in which two Australians spend an hour playing with themselves, is apparently also set for a London transfer. "Apres Jerry Hall, le deluge," moaned the Daily Telegraph.
"Americans make no distinction between English actors. They can't tell the difference between Michael Caine and Prince Charles. We're all Prince Charles to them"—actor Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy in the TV Pride and Prejudice).