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National Theatre, London

Exhibition celebrating National Theatre at The Old Vic opening next month

Carly-Ann Clements

By Carly-Ann Clements Published 14 March 2018

This year, The Old Vic is celebrating its 200th birthday. And to mark the momentous occasion, an exhibition dedicated to the early National Theatre, which spent its formative years at The Old Vic, will open for a strictly limited time in the National’s Lyttelton Lounge.

Having opened in 1818, The Old Vic has a rich history which has influenced London theatre immensely. Among its sizeable contributions to Theatreland is the birth of the National Theatre.

Though it’s hard to imagine London theatre without it, the National Theatre was only established in 1963. It started at The Old Vic and remained there for its first 13 years.

The original theatre company led by Sir Laurence Olivier was made up of young and emerging actors, playwrights, designers and movement directors. Many of the members went on to have a significant impact not only on British theatre but on the development of 20th-century theatre as a whole. The 13-year period at The Old Vic witnessed productions of new writing, the creation of innovative stage designs and a dynamic approach to theatre-making never experienced before.

The exhibition has been curated by National Theatre Archive Associate Natasha Bonnelame. “The National Theatre’s history at The Old Vic is fascinatingly global in its outlook,” says Natasha. “Theatre makers from across the world connected in these tiny offices in Waterloo in 1960s London, and the outcome was seminal productions on The Old Vic stage which have defined theatre practice in the UK ever since. This exhibition celebrates this pioneering time in the history of both organisations.”

Sound artist Jesc Bunyard has created a new sound artwork for the exhibition. It will be featured in the exhibition, inspired by archive materials from this time. “I am interested in capturing the history of the National Theatre and The Old Vic through sound and to use the sheer weight of voices to convey the dramatic history whilst providing a soundtrack to the exhibition,” says Jesc. “The murmur of voices should follow the visitor around during their visit to the exhibition space in the Lyttelton Lounge.”

The exhibition that highlights the extraordinary and innovative period in British theatre history will run from April to June. Entry to the exhibition will be free to all.

Find out which shows are on at, and plan a trip to, The Old Vic, here.

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