In what is thought to have been his first public appearance since being found not guilty of sexual assault charges in a highly publicized U.K. trial, Kevin Spacey was given a standing ovation by an audience at Oxford University on Monday, Oct. 16 after giving a performance as part of a lecture on cancel culture.
The two-time Oscar winner delivered a five-minute scene from Timon of Athens, William Shakespeare’s play about wealth, greed and betrayal that many contemporary critics have said explores what is today referred to as cancel culture.
Spacey, 64, who is understood to have remained in London since the trial ended in July, was introduced by journalist, writer and free-speech advocate Douglas Murray, associate editor of arch-conservative magazine The Spectator. Murray, whose views have been labeled as being linked to far-right political ideologies, described Spacey as “one of the great actors of his generation and somebody I’m proud to call a friend.”
Written by Shakespeare in the early 1600s, Timon of Athens follows a rich citizen of the Greek capital who would lavish his riches on parasitic companions, only to find himself rejected by them when he loses his wealth. He ultimately denounces mankind and lives in isolation in a cave. Although Spacey gave no context as to why he chose an excerpt from this play, the performance could be seen as linked to his own rejection by Hollywood and the cultural world in the wake of the sexual assault allegations that emerged in 2017.
Spacey’s performance came during a lecture dedicated to the late Sir Roger Scruton, a philosopher who in 2019 was fired as a government adviser after a British journalist tweeted a truncated quote from an interview with Scruton in which he described Chinese people as being “a kind of replica of the next one.” Scruton was later re-appointed after the full transcript was published.
The performance in Oxford University also came just days after London’s Prince Charles Cinema dropped an offer it had accepted to host the world premiere of Control, Spacey’s first film following the trial.
“Last night it came to our attention that your film features Kevin Spacey, in particular his first film since the court case,” the manager of the central London cinema told The Telegraph. “My staff as well as I are horrified that we are being mentioned in the same breath as his new film for the premiere.”