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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Critics lukewarm on Spacey play
Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey was upbeat about the play
Theatre critics appeared less than impressed by Hollywood star Kevin Spacey's debut as artistic director of London's Old Vic Theatre.

He opened his tenure on Tuesday with Cloaca by Dutch playwright Maria Goos.

Cloaca - the Latin word for sewer - centres on the relationship between four male friends hitting middle-age.

Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer described the play as "a stinker", adding it was "slick, superficial and as unappealing as its title".

He added: "I've had more fun lying in gutters than sitting through this comedy."

The play, starring Stephen Tompkinson, Neil Pearson and Hugh Bonneville, is set in a stylish Amsterdam loft apartment owned by Pieter, a local government official who has legitimately stashed away eight paintings by an obscure artist.

I've had more fun lying in gutters than sitting through this comedy
Charles Spencer, theatre critic

But when the artist's work begins to creep up in value, his bosses decide they want them back, including the ones Pieter has sold.

His three friends rally around to try and sort out the mess Pieter has found himself in.

But some critics were harsh in their reviews of Spacey first outing at the Old Vic.

'Lively moments'

Michael Billington, in The Guardian, said Goos' play was a "blackish, brackish comedy about four middle-aged Dutchmen behaving rather badly".

And while he reserved some praise for Spacey's "capable" directing, he described the play as being like a "sitcom" with "spasmodically lively moments".

"My real problem... was that I could never believe in the past friendship of Goos' quarrelsome quartet," he wrote.

"There seems nothing to bind this foursome together except the demands of the dramatic situation".

The Independent's critic, Paul Taylor, described Cloaca as a "curiously underwhelming affair" .

But he added that the production was "punchily acted and nicely modulated".

As celebrities and theatre critics gathered for Tuesday's opening night, Spacey told the BBC he "could not have hoped for a better launch".

He added: "I think it is going to be a play people recognise themselves in no matter what country they come from because it is about friendship. We all have friends."

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