Spacey questions BBC’s theatre policy

Published April 17, 2008

Kevin Spacey, actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic, has questioned the BBC’s involvement in theatrical talent shows such as How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do and the current search for an actress and three young boys to star in the new production of Oliver!, I’d Do Anything. Spacey suggested the corporation should be exploring ways to promote theatre rather than focusing singularly on one show.

Spacey has criticised the high-profile talent searches that have unearthed new musical theatre stars Connie Fisher and Lee Mead as “a 13-week promotion for a musical”. The BBC disagreed, stating that the series weren’t “unduly promotional”.

Spacey’s attack did not come without suggestions about how the BBC could better support theatre through the reintroduction of series such as Play For Today, which saw pieces including Abigail’s Party and Cathy Come Home reach a wide audience. He also suggested a theatre-based programme “to help kids find their own sense of self-esteem, confidence and ability to collaborate”.

The Hollywood star’s statement was made during an interview about his new film 21, in which six students learn to count cards and take their newly-acquired skill to Las Vegas. Spacey said he had discussed the issue with BBC Chairman Michael Lyons.

Audience numbers for London theatre as a whole have increased since the advent of reality casting, with 2007 reaching record levels. Over 13.5 million people visited a London theatre last year, 1.25 million more than ever before. Though there are many reasons for the audiences increase, the television series raised the profile of London theatre in general.

The third of the BBC’s talent-finding series, I’d Do Anything, reached the voting stages this weekend. Audiences now have the opportunity to vote for the performer they think is best suited for the role of Nancy in Oliver! It was announced last week that whoever wins the coveted role will perform opposite Rowan Atkinson as Fagin.

MA