Entertainment & Arts

Stars praise Kevin Spacey's Old Vic reign

Kevin Spacey
Image caption Kevin Spacey has been artistic director at the Old Vic from 2003 to 2015

Stars of the acting world have paid tribute to Kevin Spacey at a gala event at the Old Vic as he steps down as artistic director.

Many spoke of Spacey's "incredible" work in revitalising the London venue during his 11 years in charge.

Guests at Sunday's event included Downton stars Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, Jeremy Irons, Eddie Izzard and singer Beverley Knight.

There were also musical tributes from Sting and Annie Lennox.

Sting performed two songs including Every Breath You Take, while Lennox's set featured No More I Love Yous and Here Comes the Rain Again.

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Image caption Sting performed two songs at the gala event
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hugh Bonneville, who hosted the event, starred in Spacey's first play at the Old Vic

In his closing speech, Spacey referred to the Old Vic's lack of government subsidy wondered why the theatre was not treated as "a national treasure".

He also said the "best thing about the Old Vic is its future".

There were recorded tributes from James Bond director Sam Mendes, former US president Bill Clinton and singer Elton John.

During his time at the Old Vic, Spacey has directed two productions and starred in nine - including an acclaimed version of Richard III.

The Hollywood star has also continued with screen projects such as Netflix's remake of House of Cards, which won him an acting Golden Globe this year.

Mark Gatiss, who starred in All About My Mother at the Old Vic in 2008, said Spacey had been "amazingly supportive" during the run.

"He's done an incredible job, he's totally revitalised this place and it's the end of an era."

Image copyright Rankin/Old Vic/Getty
Image caption Photographer Rankin was backstage at the Old Vic taking specially commissioned portraits of Spacey and the evening's guests - including Downton Abbey's Elizabeth McGovern
Image copyright Rankin/Old Vic/Getty
Image caption Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Lukis, Stephen Tompkinson and Neil Pearson posed
Image copyright Rankin/Old Vic/Getty
Image caption Sinead Cusack attended with husband Jeremy Irons
Image copyright Rankin/Old Vic/Getty
Image caption Luke Treadaway and Adam Garcia appeared to enjoy the star-studded evening
Image copyright Rankin/Old Vic/Getty
Image caption Mark Gatiss and Colin Morgan joked for the camera
Image copyright Rankin/Old Vic/Getty
Image caption Spacey gave the Old Vic's artistic director designate Matthew Warchus his seal of approval

McGovern, who was at drama school with Spacey, recalled: "He was the brilliant person he is today. We always knew that he had it."

A week ago Spacey was honoured at the Olivier Awards for his contribution to British theatre.

Sunday's gala show at the Old Vic included a cast reunion of some of the cast of Spacey's inaugural production at the theatre in 2004.

'Absolute blast'

Bonneville and Drop the Dead Donkey stars Neil Pearson and Stephen Tompkinson had appeared in Cloaca by Dutch playwright Maria Goos.

The Downton actor recalled how the play - the title is the Latin for sewer - had garnered poor reviews.

"It didn't get the best critical reaction, but we had an absolute blast," he told the BBC on the red carpet before hosting the show.

He recalled that not everyone had been keen about Spacey taking over at the theatre, with some thinking he would "scurry back the Hollywood".

"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.

"There were troubled times, programming a theatre like this is a delicate thing and you make mistakes sometimes. But think of the fantastic hits he's had over the years.

"This place is in good nick now, and is a fantastic platform for [incoming artistic director] Matthew Warchus to build on."

Warchus, who directed the hit musical Matilda and the film Pride, is set to reveal his opening season at the Old Vic this week.

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