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Kevin Spacey investigation: Claim emerges that Old Vic did receive complaint of inappropriate behaviour during his tenure

Kevin Spacey. Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock Kevin Spacey. Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock
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London’s Old Vic Theatre has revealed that one complaint about alleged inappropriate behaviour is thought to have been made against Kevin Spacey while he was artistic director.

This is the headline finding of a report released today by the theatre, which also said it had now received 20 personal testimonies of alleged inappropriate conduct by Spacey during his time running the London venue. Of these, it says only one was raised formally or informally with management at the time.

This is despite the Old Vic initially claiming that no complaints had been made against Kevin Spacey when he was its artistic director.

Of the 20 claims of inappropriate behaviour, all the complainants were male. Of these complaints, 14 were of the severity that the complainants have been advised by investigators to contact the police.

The alleged incidents are reported to have occurred predominantly at the Old Vic, and several are related to the bar and ‘creative areas’ of the building. Spacey was asked by investigators, lawyers Lewis Silkin, to take part in the investigation but did not respond, therefore all allegations remain unverified.

Richard Miskella, who led the investigation for Lewis Silkin, said the one complaint detailed in the report was told to a manager at the theatre shortly after the alleged incident took place, however that manager did not do anything about it.

Miskella said: “That person also specifically required us not to take that forward, not to contact that manager, not to share their story with that person at all, so we haven’t been able to do more with that other than just record it.”

He added that the complainant did not name the manager so the Old Vic had been unable to identify them or verify the claim.

Highlights of the investigation:

  • 20 personal testimonies shared alleged inappropriate behaviour by Kevin Spacey during his time as artistic director of the Old Vic
  • The alleged incidents ranged from 1995 to 2013, with all but two happening before 2009
  • The allegations cover a range of inappropriate behaviour
  • None of the correspondents were minors at the time of the alleged incidents
  • Staff who observed the behaviour were unclear how to respond. Some cases were considered not to be serious; of those that were, staff did not feel confident the Old Vic management would take the claims seriously
  • The alleged victims did not feel able to raise concerns and believed Spacey operated without sufficient accountability
  • The Old Vic issues apology for not creating an environment or culture in which people felt able to speak freely
  • Investigation finds there was a cult of personality around Spacey
  • The investigation found Spacey’s stardom and status at the Old Vic may have prevented people – particularly junior staff and actors – from feeling able to speak up
  • The review points to several factors escalating the problem: star power, lack of clarity over the theatre’s acceptable code of behaviour, confusion over the impact of reporting misconduct, career insecurity, tribalism between operation and creative staff

The report said that “despite having the appropriate escalation processes in place”, staff at the Old Vic felt unable to come forward because they believed management would not take their allegations seriously.

It added that no “legal claims, formal grievances, formal disputes, settlement agreements or payments made or authorised” were made at all in relation to Spacey during his tenure.

It stressed that it has not been possible to verify any of the allegations against the former Old Vic artistic director, and Spacey has not commented on them.

As part of the investigation, samples of historical staff mailboxes were also searched using keywords to ascertain whether there was any level of knowledge about Spacey, however Spacey’s emails have not been searched as part of this process

Nick Clarry, chairman of the Old Vic, who has been in post since January 2014, said: “On behalf of the Old Vic board of trustees, to all those people who felt unable to speak up at the time, the Old Vic truly apologises. Inappropriate behaviour by anyone working at the Old Vic is completely unacceptable. We will foster a safe and supportive environment without prejudice, harassment or bullying of any sort, at any level. We want anyone who works here to feel confident, valued and proud to be part of the Old Vic family.”

The Old Vic has now announced that – in response to the allegations – it will:

  • Appoint ‘Guardians’ who will be appointed from across the board and wider organisation to champion best practice, and be a first point of contact for those who don’t want to reach out through formal channels
  • Spend time with those who work here to create an ‘OK – Not OK’ set of cultural expectations for all to understand and own, “setting out in basic terms behaviours we feel comfortable with, and those with which we do not”
  • Provide refocused guidance and training, and opportunities for checks and feedback at all times

The Old Vic’s current artistic director Matthew Warchus added: “I have genuine and deep sympathy for all those who have come forward and said they were hurt in some way by my predecessor’s actions. Everyone is entitled to work in an environment free from harassment and intimidation. The Old Vic is now actively engaged in the process of healing and the process of prevention.

“These allegations have been a shock and a disturbing surprise to many of us. It is incorrect, unfair and irresponsible to say that everybody knew. But as a result of the investigation, what we have learnt is how better to call out this behaviour in future.

“These findings will help not only the Old Vic but our industry as a whole, as together we rapidly evolve an intelligent new standard of protection and support in and around the workplace. We are committed to a new way forward.”

The confidential complaints process set up to gather testimonies will remain open, executive director Kate Varah said, however the theatre will focus on using the “huge amount” it has learned to make positive change in the future.

“It has been a really dismaying time and a discovery that should not colour the future of this theatre, and our ability to work with the people affected, understand what went wrong, prevent it from happening again and then move forward and continue to keep this theatre that we all love thrive,” she said.

The Stage has contacted Spacey’s legal representatives for comment.

Read a full transcript of the Old Vic press conference.

Click for all The Stage’s coverage of harassment in the theatre industry and advice on who to contact if you or someone you know has been a victim.

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