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Old Vic Theatre

A guide to The Old Vic in London's West End

The Old Vic Theatre began life as the Royal Coburg Theatre, opening its doors on the corner of The Cut and Waterloo Road in 1818. Since then it has gone on to host some of the greatest acting talent ever seen in London including Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Eileen Atkins among many others.

It has enjoyed mixed fortunes because of a lack of funding despite finding critical acclaim, but its fortunes revived once more in 2003 when Kevin Spacey took over as artistic director. The theatre began to attract large audiences and great reviews for a programme that has been particularly focused on classic drama.

The venue is within walking distance of the South Bank, the London Eye, and attractions like the British Museum. It is also close to many popular pubs and bars making it a great venue if you're looking to combine your visit to the theatre with a great lastminute.com theatre meal deal, or with pre- or post-theatre drinks.

The history

The theatre began to establish itself in 1914 when Lilian Baylis took over and began a series of Shakespeare productions. The Old Vic Company was established in 1929 and led by John Gielgud. Lilian Baylis championed the rebuilding of the then derelict Sadler's Wells theatre and a ballet company was established. The two companies worked at both locations until the ballet company became permanently established at Sadler's Wells in 1935. The Old Vic was badly damaged during the blitz and the theatre company toured the regions until 1944, when it returned to London and, chiefly, the Noel Coward Theatre.

The Old Vic Theatre reopened in 1950 and in 1976, the National Theatre Company, as it then, was moved to its new home on the South Bank. The theatre then ran into difficulties, finding critical success under Tony Robertson, but encountering problems attracting Arts Council funding. Timothy West took over as Artistic Director before the company gave its final season at the theatre in 1981. After that, the Old Vic housed seasons by the director Peter Hall to considerable acclaim, before things again fell largely silent until 2003.

The Old Vic has seen many landmark productions including Hamlet starring Richard Burton, Richard III with Laurence Olivier and Henry IV Parts I and II with Ralph Richardson as Falstaff. Others include, Romeo and Juliet with Judi Dench, Ibsen's Hedda Gabler with Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers.

Other more recent productions include Peter O'Toole in an infamous Macbeth, The White Devil with Glenda Jackson, Waiting for Godot with Ben Kingsley and Aladdin with Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey. Other productions under Kevin Spacey include Eugene O'Neill's Moon for the Misbegotten starring Kevin Spacey and Eve Best, John Osborne's The Entertainer with Robert Lindsay and Michael Frayn's Noises Off.

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