Stars from throughout the world of theatre came together to praise Kevin Spacey as he stepped down as artistic director of London’s The Old Vic after more than a decade in the role.

In an event hosted by ‘Downton Abbey’ star Hugh Bonneville, the likes of Elizabeth McGovern, Jeremy Irons and Eddie Izzard paid tribute to Spacey’s contributions to reviving the fortunes of the Old Vic, at which he took the reins in 2003. He now vacates to make way for Matthew Warchus, who is set to unveil his opening season later this week.

Recorded tributes were also included from James Bond director Sam Mendes, Sir Elton John and even former American President Bill Clinton, and there were a handful of musical performances by Sting and Annie Lennox. 

Kevin SpaceyKevin Spacey stepped down as artistic director of London's The Old Vic theater on Sunday

Following eleven years managing the creative output at the hallowed theatre near the South Bank in London, 55 year old Spacey has directed two shows and starred in nine, including an extremely well-received adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’.

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During that time, the two-time Oscar winner has also maintained his career in the States, portraying Frank Underwood in three seasons of the acclaimed political drama ‘House of Cards’, made exclusively for Netflix and for which he won a Golden Globe earlier this year.

In a closing speech at the gala event on Sunday evening, Spacey said that the “best thing about The Old Vic is its future” and wondered why the old theatre was not considered “a national treasure”.

British actor Mark Gatiss, who starred in ‘All About My Mother’ at the Vic in 2008, was one of many to add his thoughts on Spacey’s departure. “He's done an incredible job, he's totally revitalised this place and it's the end of an era,” he said.

Elizabeth McGovern, another ‘Downton’ star who was at drama with school with Spacey, said: “He was the brilliant person he is today. We always knew that he had it.”

Bonneville recalled that Spacey’s appointment to the role had initially been divisive. “There was snide undercurrent from the British asking who's this Yank who thinks he can come over here and run our hallowed Old Vic? But he's proved them wrong.”

Spacey’s replacement Matthew Warchus has had experience directing the musical adaptation of ‘Matilda’, and received rave reviews as a big screen operator having helmed last year’s movie Pride.

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