Watching the watchers - Monocolumn | Monocle


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1 April 2015

I just went to see Kevin Spacey in one of his final performances at the Old Vic theatre in London, playing the role of the real-life civil-rights lawyer Clarence Darrow. It was a packed Friday night and sure, people were already up for having a good time, for being wooed by Mr Spacey, but you could sense, as the minutes eased away, that he was taking a theatre full of disparate people on a journey together.

We may have had days that varied from crap to celebratory but in that theatre, Spacey had the presence and the agility to make us forget what existed outside the its walls – even if just for a couple of hours – and to have our attention in an age when concentration is the rarest of commodities; society’s rare metal.

So every now and then I would let myself look at the faces of the people sat around me (don’t worry, no craning of necks required: this was theatre in the round). The same emotions were playing out across hundreds and hundreds of faces; he had strapped us to a rollercoaster and we were following his every word. We laughed in unison, shuddered together. From the group of people who looked like they had just left their desks in some City bank to the school kids up in the gods – everyone on the same page.

It’s something I find as moving as the experience on the stage and which surely must be intoxicating for any performer who is able to cast this spell and to magic us into wonder.

Even after Spacey had taken his final bow that feeling of unity among the audience glowed: people buzzing, happy, thrilled at what they had seen. But we had made the evening, too; acting in unison is a glorious thing. In the dark something amazing had happened and in his dressing room I hope Mr Spacey knew that something incredible had just taken place.

Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor.


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