Kevin Spacey isn’t one to shy away while irksome folk lurk within his periphery. So when a theatregoer neglected to turn off his-or-her mobile phone or even limit the device to silence during a performance of ‘Clarence Darrow’ at London’s Old Vic, Spacey wasted no time in bestowing the requisite discomfiture.

Kevin SpaceyKevin Spacey at the American Museum of Moving Image Honors

"If you don't answer that, I will!" barked Spacey while remaining in character as Clarence Darrow, the American lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union best known for defending teenage thrill killers. Warm applause from the audience ensued while, presumably, the embarrassed patron saw to their faux pas with gusto. 

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This is Spacey’s first role in a one-man play, but he has played the character of Darrow on stage and in a film adaptation for PBS television before. “Clarence Darrow was a unique and courageous man. Several of my favourite actors have played Darrow... Henry Fonda, Orson Welles and Spencer Tracy,” said the actor. 

“Wanting to get up on my beloved Old Vic stage in our 10th anniversary season was also important to me. And taking on a play that I feel very close to seems right. Finally, throw in that I’ve never done a one-man play, or performed in the round before, and this production offered me two firsts. Plus, you know I love a challenge.”

So far, the critics have raved about Spacey. “It is a mighty performance that brings out Darrow's bravura humanitarianism and it leaves one hoping that, even after Spacey hands over the Old Vic to Matthew Warchus next year, it will not be his farewell to the London stage,” wrote Michael Billington in his 4-star review for The Guardian. 

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“Thea Sharrock’s production, with a fine design by Alan Macdonald of Darrow’s cluttered office, rarely loosens its dramatic grip, but it is the power and palpable humanity of Spacey’s performance that makes this evening so special. I have been chilled and thrilled by Spacey In the past. On this occasion, he also reveals a vulnerability and warmth that is very special indeed,” suggested The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer.