The Old Vic is a theatre in the Waterloo area of London. It was also the name of a repertory company that was based at the theatre, and provided the basis of the Royal National Theatre company.
The theatre opened in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, but in 1833 it was renamed the Royal Victorian Theatre after the heir to the throne Princess Victoria. In 1880, under the ownership of Emma Cons, it became The Royal Victoria Hall And Coffee Tavern and was run on "strict temperance lines""; by this time it was already known as the "Old Vic".
With Emma Cons's death in 1912 the theatre passed to her niece Lilian Baylis, who emphasised the Shakespearean repertoire. The Old Vic Company was established in 1929, led by John Gielgud. In 1931, Lilian Baylis re-opened the derelict Sadler's Wells Theatre and established a ballet company; for a few years the drama and ballet companies rotated between the two theatres, with the ballet becoming permanently based at Sadler's Wells in 1935.
The Old Vic was damaged badly during the Blitz, and the war-depleted company spent all its time touring, based in [Burnley Lancashire at the Victoria Theatre during the years 1940 to 1943. In 1944, the company was re-established in London with Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier as its stars, perfoming mainly at the New Theatre until the Old Vic was ready to re-open in 1950. In 1946, an offshoot of the company was established in Bristol as the Bristol Old Vic.
In 1963, the Old Vic company was dissolved and replaced by the National Theatre, which was based at the Old Vic until its own building was opened near Waterloo Bridge in 1976. After the departure of the NT, the Old Vic continued as a home for classic and new drama, and was significantly restored under the ownership of Toronto department-store entrepreneur 'Honest Ed' Mirvish during the 1980s. In 1998, the building was bought by a new charitable trust, The Old Vic Theatre Trust 2000. In 2000, the production company Criterion Productions was renamed Old Vic Productions plc, though relatively few of its productions are at the Old Vic theatre.
In 2004, actor Kevin Spacey was appointed as new artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre Company receiving considerable media attention. Spacey hopes to inject new life into the British theatre industry, and bring British and American theatrical talent to the stage. He will appear in two shows per season, and will perform some directorial duties on other shows.
- Old Vic theatre (http://www.oldvictheatre.com/) - official site
- Pictures and early history of Vic-Wells (http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/guided_tours/drama_tour/1900_1945/old_vic.php)