For fans of the contemporary remake of House of Cards, breed fans of Kevin Spacey. Those who already knew of Spacey’s talent, the TV show has only cemented their opinions on his skill. Those mostly unaware of him now praise him endlessly. Still, somewhere in the middle of each audience are those who don’t know of his work outside of film and television. The man is a theatre buff, drawing crowds from behind the curtain (running the Old Vic theatre) to bringing them in their masses to see him on stage. NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage shows us the most recent fruits of Spacey’s stage labour, with his and Sam Mendes’ production and tour of Richard III.
The documentary explores the genesis of the show, largely the brain-child of Spacey and Mendes as they reteamed after American Beauty. The idea of camaraderie becomes the main focus of the documentary and so if you are looking for an investigative spotlight on drama productions, you may not find what you’re looking for with NOW. There is a lot to take from how each actor takes on their respective characters in Richard III, and set and lighting is intermittently discussed. However, what you take from the film by the end is a reflection on work, colleagues and friendship.
It’s difficult to define the film as engaging, though it does stimulate you with its fly-on-the-wall documentation of budding relationships. Most of the cast and crew of Richard III hadn’t worked with each other prior to the staging and so you see people getting to know one another, developing strong bonds. You can see either lots or a select few of incidences that you would have experienced yourself in life and this is always interesting. The Richard III production almost becomes a backdrop the actor profiles we see more and more of. Aadel Nodeh-Farahani’s photography wonderfully captures all of this – seemingly invisible to the crew as he films rehearsals and backstage antics. Then the interviews, that explain the ins and outs of it all (what the main demographic will be pining for), are expertly edited together by Will Znidaric.
At 97 minutes, it is a relatively condensed documentary, which is exactly what it needs to be. Spacey is a great actor, and Mendes a wonderful director, but there is a lot of gushing going on. Keeping it short and sweet is director Jeremy Whelehan’s best directorial objective; you can learn a fair bit about a stage production (especially with one so rare as to tour worldwide) and even more about actors and crew members building up relationships over the course of a staging/shoot.