The Old Vic concluded that the actor’s star power contributed to failings at the theatre. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
The London theatre has been criticised for remaining largely silent since the Spacey allegations broke. But Varah said it had been important to properly investigate what went wrong.
“We have not slept since this came out, because we have been working incredibly hard to do this in a robust and detailed and measured and careful way,” she said.
“It would have been easy for us to make a quick statement. It was not appropriate for us to do that because of the nature of the allegations.”
The theatre opened a confidential complaints process after the allegations emerged. It also hired the law firm Lewis Silkin to investigate.
On Thursday it said 56 people had contacted the theatre, with 20 individual allegations of inappropriate conduct by Spacey. All were against young men over the age of 18. Sixteen of them were former staff. One testimony dated back to 1995, while 17 were between 2004 and 2009 and two were after that date.
The alleged behaviour ranged from something that made people feel uncomfortable to sexually inappropriate. None of the allegations were of rape.
The Old Vic said no formal complaints about Spacey were received during his tenure and it maintained that no board trustees were aware of any allegations.
It found one case of a complainant telling a manager who was in the room at the time of an incident and the manager taking no further action.
The theatre’s current artistic director, Matthew Warchus, speaking about the issue for the first time, said: “As somebody who worked here, in that period, and as a freelance director over the last 30 years, I’ve worked in pretty much every producing theatre in London … my experience of working here was that this was in no way a toxic environment. My experience of working here was identical to every theatre I’d ever worked in.
“You can understand how surprising, confusing, shocking this turn of events is. My big hope is that it doesn’t reflect on the Old Vic as a name and a brand. It was a very, very hard situation to spot.”
Asked how he felt about Spacey now, Warchus said: “This last month has created lots of feelings and emotions and thoughts personally … but they’re not relevant. We’re here to try to define an upgrade to the protection and support systems here.”
Some former staff have said Spacey’s behaviour was an open secret. But Warchus said it was “incorrect, unfair and irresponsible to say that everybody knew”.
The lawyer Richard Miskella, who led the two-week investigation, said: “There was not widespread knowledge about this, that’s not what our review shows. There were pockets in which knowledge or suspicion was greater than others and that seemingly did not get escalated.”
Miskella said a lot of people had said “everyone knew”. “The interesting thing is when you ask people what did you know, no two people gave the same answer. There was a very wide range of response, from Mr Spacey’s undisclosed sexuality through to more serious suspicions.”
There were also a lot of people who worked at the Old Vic who “very genuinely were absolutely blindsided by this. They didn’t see it coming.”
Some former employees have talked about having to sign confidentiality agreements but Varah said that it was standard practice at the theatre.
The investigation concluded that Spacey’s stardom and status prevented people, particularly junior staff and young actors, from speaking out.
Miskella said Spacey had been invited to take part in the investigation but nothing had been heard from him. Snapshots of historic email accounts were taken by investigators but not Spacey’s.
Spacey, who has parted ways with his talent agency and press representative since the story broke, is reportedly being treated at the same Arizona rehab clinic as Harvey Weinstein.
His once glittering career appears to be in ruins. He has been sacked by the producers of his hit TV show House of Cards and replaced by Christopher Plummer in the already completed film All the Money in the World.
The theatre said it was introducing a number of measures to make sure it fulfilled its duty of care to those who worked there. That will include a “guardians committee” made up of board members, staff and creatives who will be responsible for upholding policies and raising awareness of issues of good conduct.
“Despite having the appropriate escalation processes in place, it was claimed that those affected felt unable to raise concerns and that Kevin Spacey operated without sufficient accountability,” the theatre said in a statement.
“This is clearly unacceptable and the Old Vic truly apologises for not creating an environment or culture where people felt able to speak freely.”
Nick Clarry, the chairman of the Old Vic, also apologised to “all those people who felt unable to speak up at the time”.
He added: “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.”
The theatre emphasised that “no legal claims, formal grievances, formal disputes, settlement agreements or payments made or authorised were made at all in relation to Kevin Spacey during his tenure”.
Spacey has yet to comment on the allegations. The last statement released by his former spokeswoman said Spacey was “taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment”.