Clarence Darrow – reviews of Kevin Spacey's big solo role

Jun 9, 2014

Spacey is 'spellbinding' as the great American defence lawyer Clarence Darrow, say critics

Manuel Harlan

What you need to know
Kevin Spacey's solo drama, Clarence Darrow, has opened at the Old Vic, London. Thea Sharrock directs Spacey in David Rintels's monologue about the life of the famous American lawyer and civil libertarian. 

Spacey as Darrow relives some of the lawyer's key career moments, including the murder and free speech trials which established his reputation as a courtroom legend and civil rights hero. Runs until 15 June.

What the critics like
Spacey delivers "a thrilling solo turn as the great American defence lawyer", says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. His spellbinding performance keeps you hooked throughout, and Darrow's humanity and passion for justice become increasingly moving.

Spacey's big, barnstorming performance is "entirely appropriate for a man who was a fervent champion of the poor and oppressed", says Michael Billington in The Guardian. He performs in the round magnificently, roaming the cluttered law-office set with a ferocious energy.

Spacey gives a "wonderfully charismatic and caustic solo turn" as the lawyer and noted wit, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Darrow's claims to greatness as a battered but unbowed humanitarian find, in Spacey, the perfect advocate.

What they don't like
Spacey delivers an impassioned tribute, but the 'York Notes' script irons out Darrow's many contradictions into one gutsy triumph after another, says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. If you want complexity, inner life or masterclasses in manipulation, best to stick to House of Cards.

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