Just a few of the cast from The Bridge Project / credit Nick Heavican and Ellis Parrinder
We like to think we're a fairly international bunch, especially with our New York friends over at Gothamist. So we - along with half the known world - are pretty excited about The Bridge Project, billed as an unprecedented three-year transatlantic partnership, coming to the Old Vic this summer.
London theatregoers are used to seeing big name US stars swan across the pond to grace us with their presence for a few weeks, but The Bridge Project is trying something different. The brainchild of Sam Mendes, Kevin Spacey and Joseph V Melillo (of the Brooklyn Academy of Music), the idea was to get together an international cast of quality actors for a long season touring several countries. Should be simple, right? Nope. This tale has guile, catastrophe and derring do - and that's before we even get onto the plays.
Transferring productions across borders tends to rile local acting unions, who can force a settled company to recast numerous parts. Getting US and UK Equity to back the project was a coup but, as it turned out, negotiation with unions was the least of their worries. The Bridge Project should have kicked off last year with a double header of 'Hamlet' and 'The Tempest', but lead Stephen Dillane had to withdraw for personal reasons (perhaps lucky for David Tennant and Jude Law that he did). It also costs a phenomenal amount of cash - $6 million for its first year - and the team managed to get the final funding from Bank of America just before the economy went belly up.
After all that, we can now ask: what about the theatre? This year Mendes is directing 'The Winter's Tale' and Chekhov's 'The Cherry Orchard', with a company that includes Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack, Rebecca Hall, Richard Easton, Josh Hamilton and Ethan Hawke. The season has just opened in New York and will be taking in Singapore, New Zealand, Spain and Germany before arriving at the Old Vic in May. We can't wait.
The Bridge Project will be at the Old Vic 23 May - 15 August. Book online. Seriously, book early.