(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 3/9.)

It’s freighted with inevitable sadness, this sold-out return run of Kevin Spacey’s mesmerising incarnation as the crusading American lawyer Clarence Darrow. His revels as the Old Vic’s artistic director now are nearly ended after a decade that has greatly enhanced the theatre’s reputation. Should he, as we must hope, return to the London stage once this production has ended, it will be as a visitor not an incumbent. His successor Matthew Warchus will soon be unveiling his inaugural autumn season.

The points of connection between Spacey’s socially engaged, industrious mission and Darrow’s enlightened zeal are easy to spot, and there’s a particular poignancy about the way David W Rintels’ 1974 play revolves around its battle-hardened subject picking his way through an office-load of boxes, sifting old papers and photos, reminiscing as he does about past court cases and his life.

This remains a masterclass in how to woo an audience. Spacey’s ability to connect with those watching in-the-round, and his complete ownership of the space, is second to none. A conspiratorial glance, the twinkling of a narrowed eye, a fist shaken in vehement, impassioned belief – and we are hooked, in thrall to this rumpled, stooped figure.


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