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Theatre Review: Clarence Darrow at The Old Vic

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In this day in age, Kevin Spacey sells.


And rightly so.

Surprisingly, ten years ago he moved from the US to London to become the Artistic Director of The Old Vic theatre in Waterloo. This is the same man that was riding off the back of the multi-award winning role of Lester Burnham in American Beauty. 

Many called him crazy, but visiting The Old Vic, it’s easy to see why he fell in love with it.

Celebrating ten years, and marking the end of his time as Artistic Director, Spacey returns to the stage for a one-man spectacular performing as notorious American lawyer and civil libertarian, Clarence Darrow.

Double Oscar winner Spacey, 54, played the same character on stage in Inherit The Wind and 22 years ago in the PBS film Darrow, whose director John David Coles has recently directed Spacey in three episodes of House of Cards.

The 3,000 plus people who queued online to get a ticket on the day of release are being treated to something they will not witness again - Kevin Spacey doing what he does best, for ninety minutes, not on the screen, but in the flesh.

The set for Clarence Darrow is arranged in the round, with only a plinth in the centre resembling a messy office space.

Clarence Darrow tells the story of how the title character became the notorious fin-di-sicle civil libertarian and lawyer.

Spacey, as Darrow, unpacks the messy office taking the audience through his life, case by case. In the romantic view that lawyers are also great thespians, Spacey delivers Darrow’s life with compassion: “I’ve committed one crime which cannot be forgiven,” he booms melodramatically, “I have stood up for the weak and poor.”

The play is never stagnant, with the audience held on every single one of Spacey’s Southern slurs.

The most heart-warming part of Clarence Darrow is undoubtedly the audience interaction. Not in the most conventional sense, in that he never asked for opinions, he simply used them as props to outline his cases.

At one point Spacey squeezes himself between two ladies in the front row and put his arms around them – intimate engagement with the material. To this extent and with Spacey’s timely wit, Clarence Darrow oozes humour in just the right places.

All in all, the performance would not have been the same without the incredible acting talent of Kevin Spacey.

Not only is it awe-inspiring to see him away from the movie/TV screen, the back to basics nature of the performance highlights the quality of his craft.

Two shows a day for 18 days, and not an ounce of passion missing. Who knows when he will next provide an opportunity such as this?

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