Having followed Kevin Spacey's twitter feed during the world tour experience of the Bridge Project’s RICHARD III, to see the journey chronicled through peeks “behind the scenes” and intimate interviews in the documentary NOW: IN THE WINGS ON A WORLD STAGE is both insightful and entertaining. A collaboration of London’s Old Vic Theatre Company (of which Spacey has served as Artistic Director since 2003), the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions, The Bridge Project created new productions of five classic plays with casts comprised equally of American and British actors, bringing the works to audiences across the globe. A three year venture begun in 2009, the project culminated with RICHARD III in which Spacey himself played one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters and if the performance snippets captured on screen for NOW: IN THE WINGS ON A WORLD STAGE are any indication, his performance and the production as a whole was magnificent. Under the guiding eye of director Jeremy Whelehan, NOW: IN THE WINGS ON A WORLD STAGE captures the journey of this final production from start to finish.
Starting with rehearsals in London, we travel with the company playing landmark theatres in Greece, Doha, Bejing, Istanbul, Sydney, Naples, San Francisco before its final performance in Brooklyn. Fascinating are some of the histories provided as to each theater in which the play is performed, giving rich historical context to the visuals. But as interesting and awe-inspiring as these world venues are, perhaps the most breathtakingly chill-inducing is Epidarus, the most famous outdoor amphitheatre in the world. Dating back to 4th Century B.C., Julius Caesar himself often frequented plays at Epidarus. Interestingly, we learn that Epidarus was built with such perfect acoustics that un-miced actors are heard with full clarity at every seat in the theatre, something demonstrated on screen.
Creating a warmth that feels like a family home video travelogue, scenic visuals are balanced with interviews guaranteed to inspire not only theatre actors and theatre-goers, but travelers alike. So engaging is the visual travelogue, you want to go visit each and every one of these venues and cities. Interviews with cast and crew of RICHARD III are not only engaging, but have a family feel that will resonate with everyone. Noteworthy are some astute observations by new theater actors and veterans, Brits and Americans, alike. Hearing and seeing long-thought perceptions torn down is not only welcoming but quite metaphoric for how the arts cross the lines of the geopolitical world. Spacey and Sam Mendes, in particular, make the most articulate guides into this world of theatre and its place in the world as a whole.
Particularly effective is the narrative flow and the editing; building the tour and the interview excerpts in a form analogous to the play itself is beyond effective. It creates audience interest in the documentary on a par with the building tension to the climactic scenes of RICHARD III. The behind the scenes whirlwinds during performances are interesting - especially given the minimal crew and cast doing much of their own spritzing, changing, prop getting, wardrobe hanging. Not only collaborative but self-sufficient. The cohesive nature of the cast is refreshing, particularly when viewed against the global political climate.
Where NOW: IN THE WINGS ON A WORLD STAGE falls short, however, is with the perpetually upbeat perkiness and platitude laden interviews. There is nary a bad word to be said by anyone about anyone and but for perhaps one moment, the physical elements of the stage production run smoothly with no glitches despite new crews in each city and minimal time for staging. Also disappointing is that we are taunted with mere moments of the production of RICHARD III, creating an insatiable desire to see the show in its entirety.
After seeing this documentary and being teased with excerpts of the play and Spacey’s dynamic performance, I would love to see the Bridge Project undertake another venture of this nature. Please sir, I want some more.
Produced by Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Whelehan
Directed by Jeremy Whelehan