Altman takes a new direction with British theatre debut at Old Vic

Spacey, the Old Vic's artistic director, will not appear in the production, but will star as Jim Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten later next year. This will reunite the Hollywood star with the British director Howard Davies, with whom he worked in 1998 on O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, the production for which Spacey first won theatrical acclaim in Britain.

Spacey, who will open next week in his first major Shakespeare role, Richard II, took a break from rehearsals yesterday to reiterate his commitment to the long-term success of the historic venue where Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud once acted.

But he said he would be doing less directing and acting after the strain of his two roles took its toll this year. "We want the Old Vic to be a place where people want to come to see what's on at the Old Vic, not because I'm on stage or because any particular actor is on stage," he said. "We need to allow the novelty of my being on stage to shift a little bit so this theatre is not on my shoulders entirely."

Despite criticisms over the quality of some of the plays in his first year in charge, Spacey insisted he had no regrets about the programme which had been received enthusiastically by 250,000 people. But the list of forthcoming shows indicates that a more heavyweight season will follow the pantomimeAladdin, in which Ian McKellen is to reprise the exuberant performance which was a hit last Christmas.

The new Arthur Miller play, Resurrection Blues, was performed in Minneapolis three years ago, but Miller had been working on rewrites up to a month before his death in February. He wanted it to be seen at the Old Vic in Britain, a country where his work was often more warmly welcomed than in America. "He loved this theatre, he wanted it to come to this theatre," Spacey said. Altman was already talking to Miller about the play, the story of a messiah-like revolutionary in Latin America. Persuading the director to work in the UK, where he had made Gosford Park, "wasn't that tough a sell", Spacey said.

Spacey, Shakespeare and a new season


14 September-26 November

Spacey plays the king in his British Shakespearean debut. Trevor Nunn directs.


7 December-22 January

Sir Ian McKellen returns as Widow Twankey. Frances Barber is Dim Sum.


26 January-4 February

A new version of the story by Igor Stravinsky and Charles Ramuz by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and the Iraqi poet Abdulkareem Kasid.


14 February-22 April

The British premiere of the play that Arthur Miller was rewriting until his final weeks will be directed by the American veteran Robert Altman, 80.


The theatre is juggling three choices.


Next year's autumn season opens with Spacey returning to the stage as Jim Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's play directed by Howard Davies.

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