If Clarence Darrow is really to be Kevin Spacey’s final outing on The Old Vic Stage, as his ten-year tenure as artistic director of The Old Vic Theatre is now running to a close, then it proved to be a fitting one. Clarence Darrow is a triumph.
In this one-man play, Spacey plays the titular pioneering 19th Century civil rights activist Clarence Darrow, as he recollects his life and his most famous cases in vivid style. Darrow is clearly a character that Spacey has great respect for, having played him previously on two separate occasions on both the stage and film.
The subject matter can get quite heavy, but this provides Spacey with ample opportunity to show people just what a great actor he really is. That’s not to say Clarence Darrow is a solemn affair, however, as Spacey gleefully dabbles in interspersed periods of humour to great effect.
The theatrical space is set ‘in-the-round’, an exciting space to be a part of, and Spacey exploits this layout with relish, including one hilarious moment where he ventured into the front row for one lucky lady.
What really amused me about this was when Spacey sat down with the young lady, audience members sitting near me released audible squeals of envy ‘aww’, wishing Spacey would’ve interacted with them. Were we all bordering on hero worship?
The audience is a melange of Spacey fans of all ages, but were all united in their mutual appreciation of the actor, with Spacey receiving a lengthy standing ovation at the close of his ninety-minute tour-de-force.
The production is minimalistic, but very effective nonetheless, a credit to the team of six, including Spacey and director Thea Sharrock, who has delivered an excellent production. The sound and lighting complement each other well to strike the appropriate mood when necessary, but are only really utilised sparingly to support Spacey, who dominates proceedings. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Although Spacey’s early days as artistic director at The Old Vic have been described as a bit patchy, judging by the response to Clarence Darrow, Spacey can look back at his time here as a resounding triumph, as Matthew Warchus prepares to succeed him.