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Dreyfuss stands firm despite 'that earpiece' controversy

PUBLISHED: 16:51 04 February 2009 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

INTENSE: Richard Dreyfuss and David Suchet in Complicit at The Old Vic.

INTENSE: Richard Dreyfuss and David Suchet in Complicit at The Old Vic.

THE day after actor Richard Dreyfuss was criticized for allegedly relying on an earpiece to remind him of his lines, the Times own theatre correspondent,

THE day after actor Richard Dreyfuss was criticized for allegedly relying on an earpiece to remind him of his lines, the Times' own theatre correspondent, Edward Martyn, was invited to check out what all the fuss was about...

KEVIN Spacey must be congratulated for the way he has transformed the Old Vic from an un-loved venue on the wrong side of the river, to a must-see event with exciting productions.

He has laughed off controversies and near disasters to fill the theatre with a loyal audience of movers and shakers, who revel in his risk-taking strategy.

He has now directed 'Complicit' a two hour play where no-one moves more than three paces and there is no set, apart from three chairs on the stage and three video screens in the ceiling.

Richard Dreyfuss appears, looking like Uncle Bulgaria from The Wombles, without his tasseled hat and gown, but with an ill-fitting pair of grey trousers.

He claims he is Benjamin Kritzer, a hot-shot N.Y. reporter with a young wife and family.

Trouble is, he looks like an inhabitant of an old people's home in Sidcup.

His wife, Judith (Elizabeth McGovern) is a slim-line N.Y. mother with lines like "He just doesn't listen" or "He won't talk to me" this character could be played by a coat hanger.

David Suchet sidles in as Ben's slippery lawyer Roger Cowan, and despite David's considerable talent, makes the character initially appear one-dimensional.

The play, written by Joe Sutton, seems like a dramatization of "The Moral Maze' (A Radio 4 programme where people discuss what they might do if someone was raping their grandmother without her consent.)

But Kevin Spacey manages to concoct a tightly-argued drama around the dilemma facing reporters who stumble on sensitive and embarrassing material, and reveal all in their column inches.

When disaster (9/11) supervenes, the government unleash the dogs of the White House to find out who is responsible for all this, and Ben is dragged before a Grand jury and threatened with jail if he doesn't reveal his 'Sources'.

Ben is on the rack, his wife tells him "Don't be a hero" and his lawyer warns him of the dire consequences of non-cooperation, but Ben knows they can get all the information they want by staking out the usual suspects and snooping on them. Why torture him?

"They want it the easy way" warns Roger, so Ben is faced with having to betray and ruin people who have nothing to do with the actual problem.

On top of this, he has published 'An Opinion' where he justifies the use of soft torture, in the case of a war with an implacable enemy that has no conscience.

This has come back to haunt him when he finds that the U.S. has been using these techniques in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay with disastrous results.

Andrew Marr appears on the video screens, interviewing Ben before the 9/11 attack, and confirming the inside information that he has gleaned from various 'Moles'. Things look bad.

The stage is set for a showdown, where every un-palatable option is explored and rejected, and Richard Dreyfuss rises to the occasion and delivers the stark picture of a human being caught up in events he did not foresee and cannot control or rationlise.

Two hours go swiftly by in the company of these seasoned veterans, and you emerge full of admiration for the magic that has been wrought, once again, in this historic venue.

* Complicit is at the Old Vic, The Cut, SE1 until February 21. Tickets are £10 to £46 and are available at the box office on 0870 060 6628.

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