SEARCH:  
Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Saturday 2nd October 2004

Cloaca / One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest / Solid Gold Cadillac


Cloaca, Kevin Spacey's debut as the artistic director of the Old Vic, must rank as one of the biggest disappointments of the year. It isn't bad, exactly, but I was expecting so much more from the man who electrified British theatergoers with his star turn in The Iceman Cometh six years ago. I sat there in the audience thinking, "He put his career in Hollywood on hold for this?"

A new play by a Dutch author called Maria Goos, Cloaca is essentially a knock-off of Art, the long-running hit about three middle-aged male friends who argue about the value of a blank canvas. Cloaca features four middle-aged men, rather than three, and the target of its satire is avant garde theatre rather than abstract expressionism, but, like Art, it's a comedy that imagines it has something serious to say about male friendship.

As I say, Cloaca isn't terrible. The characters are quite well-drawn, it has a handful of funny lines, most of them delivered by Hugh Bonneville who plays an unscrupulous left-wing politician, and it has a great cameo from a Lithuanian actress called Ingeborga Dapkunaite. But it's not, by any measure, an important new work. It's a soufflé, an aperitif. It goes down easily enough, but it's instantly forgettable. It's not the great theatrical event that I was expecting from Kevin Spacey. It's almost as if Gordon Ramsey, having become disillusioned with being a three-star Michelin chef, announced that he was taking a one-year sabbatical and, after several months in one of the best culinary laboratories in Europe, unveiled his exciting new concoction: chicken tikka masala.

The only explanation I can think of is that Spacey has decided to take his responsibility as the Old Vic's savior seriously and, rather than ferret out a great new play, has done his level best to produce a hit. It may well become one, too, and go on to enjoy a successful West End run, helping to subsidize any number of more ambitious productions at the Old Vic. But it seems odd that Spacey has made such a song and dance about escaping the money-grubbing atmosphere of Hollywood in favour of the London theatre if his principal aim as the Old Vic's artistic director is to place it on a firmer commercial footing.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest isn't any better than Cloaca, I'm afraid. The supporting cast performs pretty well, and Christian Slater isn't half bad as Randle Patrick Murphy, the self-described "bull goose looney", but the play itself is so poor there's only so much they can do. It reproduces all the worst aspects of Ken Kesey's novel, with its romantic view of Native Americans, it's hero-worship of overbearing alpha males, and, above all, its deeply misogynistic attitude towards women. I'm hardly the most politically correct of critics, but even I balked at the play's depiction of women as either brain-dead sperm receptacles or terrifying castrater-lobotomizers.

In the programme it says that One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which was first performed in 1963, "played to packed houses for four years in New York and five years in San Francisco leading, of course, to the famous film." That implies that the film is based on the play, when, in fact, the only connection between the two is that they were both adaptations of the same novel. Indeed, watching this play made me realize just how skilled the film's director, Milos Foreman, and his screenwriters, Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, were in avoiding the pitfalls of the source material. The film succeeded in making Kesey's novel less schematic, richer, more subtle. The play does the opposite: it simplifies the message of the book, rendering it even more crude. Don't waste £40 on a ticket; wait for the film to be shown again on BBC2.

I'd love to end on a positive note but, alas, The Solid Gold Cadillac stalls before it gets out of the garage. It's one of the last plays written by George S Kaufman, the great collaborator who, in partnership with Moss Hart, produced some of the greatest theatrical comedies of the last century. His co-writer on this occasion was Howard Teichmann and, possibly as a result, The Solid Gold Cadillac is very small beer next to The Man Who Came To Dinner and You Can't Take It With You.

Set in 1954, it concerns the efforts of an elderly spinster to take on the corrupt board of directors of the General Products Corporation of America, but, in spite of the presence of Patricia Routledge and Roy Hudd, it fails to raise many laughs. The only impressive thing about it is Ruari Murchison's set which includes a giant screen that is lowered between scenes so various black-and-white film clips can be shown to evoke the period. When the actors are upstaged by the set designer, you know you're on to a loser. This is a solid gold turkey.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share





Twitter Awful story. A revealing glimpse of what Corbyn’s “caring” supporters are really like link  (17 minutes ago)

BEST OF THE WEB

The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski - the-american-interest.com
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony - jerusalemletters.com
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller - quillette.com
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand - newyorker.com
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge - economist.com
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell - city-journal.org
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander - prospectmagazine.co.uk
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell - quillette.com
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff - newsweek.com
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings - dominiccummings.wordpress.com
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew - politico.com
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus - claremont.org
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman - theguardian.com
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer - conservativehome.com
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan - nationalreview.com
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs - newstatesman.com
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker - edge.org
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood - theatlantic.com
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray - quadrant.org.au
Beware the soft Stalinists of the campus by David Aaronovitch - thetimes.co.uk
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter - conservativeteachers.com
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win - youtu.be
Corbyn's first seven days - theguardian.com
Corbin's cabinet chaos by Darren McCaffrey - news.sky.com
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons - gq-magazine.co.uk
Inside Westminster's free school - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn's politics are a fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland by Tony Blair - theguardian.com
Robert Conquest obit - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that - news.stv.tv
In defence of free schools by Toby Young - standpointmag.co.uk
 

BLOGROLL

Andrew Lilico
Andrew Neil
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Normblog
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Slate
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone
 

COLUMNISTS

AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
 
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.com


  • IMdb Page on the film