This week Cécile, our International Partnerships Coordinator, reflects on her experience as a runner at the BFI screening of the Kevin Spacey Gala, filmed by Digital Theatre...
On Sunday 19th April, London bid farewell to one of the few American legends who came across the pond to leave a legacy: Kevin Spacey (nicknamed Spayoncé after his dashing performance at the Olivier Awards the previous week) left The Old Vic Theatre after 11 years as its Artistic Director; a tenure that put the South London venue back on the international map.
The evening of glamour and fun celebrated theatre in all its magic and madness. The night’s programme saw a sketch of the frantic behind-the-scenes commotion that brought the 24 Hour Plays by Old Vic New Voices, to highlights from more established productions. Hugh Bonneville, who starred in Spacey’s first production at The Old Vic (to nasty reviews) and acted as a compère for the evening, paid tribute to Spacey’s many film, TV and theatre achievements. We viewed video messages from Bill Clinton (whose wife was "too busy to be there..."!) and from Elton John and his husband David Furnish, thanking Kevin for his outstanding contribution to the theatre, and for producing bold work whilst widening audiences. But the two most incredible moments happened when The Old Vic and the BFI attendees were graced by musicians Sting and Annie Lennox on stage. Sting performed his hit Every Breath You Take with such simplicity and authenticity it was impossible not to be moved to tears; you could hear a pin drop both in the theatre and at the cinema.
Annie Lennox then quite literally rocked the stage, and reprised, among other things, a stunning version of Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain Again.
Digital Theatre, continuing its successful partnership with The Old Vic, filmed and broadcast the whole show in a live stream to the BFI; a massive endeavour, and a technical and logistical achievement in itself. After the overwhelming success of The Crucible, returning to the stunning venue to film such a well conceived goodbye ceremony, choreographed by the award-winning Rob Ashford, was a true privilege.
Running between satellite trucks, around the two venues, and to and from the theatre and cinema was a thrilling experience, and although it was a frantically busy evening, all the teams from The Old Vic, the BFI and Digital Theatre were delighted to be part of such a special event.
From that night, I’ll remember vividly the vibrant emotion of Sting’s performance, the tasty #SpaceySalute signature cocktails at the after-party at the lovely Ham Yard Hotel and the silence after the storm in the empty theatre while the skilled Digital Theatre technical teams were derigging (see photo above).
But mostly, I’ll remember Kevin Spacey’s final speech. He remembered the high and low points of his tenure, with no concessions to the critics that descended his first season. He also grew political, asking his audience to think carefully about voting for a party that has a real Arts and Culture policy at the General Election. He aired his indignation that The Old Vic was not considered a "national treasure" and therefore not consistently subsidised by ACE.
He welcomed his successor and highlighted the importance of fundraising, donations and endowment funds to help The Old Vic build on this tremendous legacy. He shared a beautiful story about his mother assuring him that his portrait would one day be hung in the National Portrait Gallery.
"No, Mom," he said, "it’s called the National Portrait Gallery. It’s just portraits of British people."
"For you," she replied, "they’ll make an exception, you’ll see."
And indeed his mother was right: Kevin Spacey appears in the National Portrait Gallery, in a painting by Jonathan Yeo, depicting him as Richard III.
In these times where too many electoral debates focus on immigration and its supposed negative consequences on the British economy, ending on such a note felt relevant and right. Closing Britain’s borders means closing the door to the Kevin Spacey, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anish Kapoor, T.S. Eliot and Ang Lees of this world, to mention but a few of the many people who have considerably enriched the UK and its vibrant cultural and artistic scene.
Here’s to Kevin Spacey, and here’s to Matthew Warchus.
Long Live The Old Vic!