“We’re not doing in fucking tights, with whatever those fucking old jock-strap things are called that they wear”
NOW – in the Wings on a World Stage is a behind-the-scenes look at the final instalment of the Bridge Project, a transatlantic theatrical enterprise that saw a partnership between the Old Vic, London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York and Neal Street Production. Over each of its three years, a single Anglo-American company was brought together to perform classic plays, culminating in a production of Richard III that toured the world for over 200 years.
Led by Kevin Spacey’s Tricky Dicky (very much Frank Underwood in the making) and director Sam Mendes in their first collaboration since the Oscar winning American Beauty, NOW… is still very much a company piece, giving us a glimpse into life on the road not just for the actors but also for all the creatives, it’s fascinating to see the challenges that faced the associate director Bruce Guthrie and his stage management team as this substantial production moved from city to city.
From Epidaurus to Beijing, Sydney to San Francisco and many more places inbetween, Shakespeare (and Spacey) resonates strongly, but it is interesting to hear the company talk of how differently the play is received in different countries, different cultures responding in their own ways. And touring at a time when the Arab Spring was in full flow, it is quite sobering to hear the influence it had on everyone’s thinking – a serious case of what might have been…
It’s also lovely to be reminded of a striking production of the play, snippets of performances are scattered throughout the film – Annabel Scholey’s Queen Anne and Gemma Jones’ vituperative Margaret still standing out – and its powerful use of drumming is ever-present. And the hints of the actors’ lives (Jones’ filthiness is brilliant!), the bonds they forge on the road, the relationships strained by being away from loved ones are rather touching to see (though you may struggle to feel too much sympathy once you see the size of the yacht they traverse the Italian Riviera on!).
The film is however aimed at a niche market, in all honesty I can’t see it having too much resonance beyond those who saw the play, or maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is universal enough to reach a wider audience. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has seen it without having made it to the theatre.