One of London theatre’s most prestigious venues, The Old Vic turns 200 this year – and it’s announced a fittingly celebratory weekend of events and activities for all ages.
Taking place from Friday 11 May (the actual birthday) to Sunday 13 May, The Old Vic’s doors will be open to as many people as possible. With a family-focused open house style, attendees can enjoy free performances, comedy, stage make up demonstrations, puppetry workshops, and even a marching band, culminating in a Bicentenary Variety Night fundraiser.
The programme opens on Friday 11 May with an entirely free performance of Mood Music, Joe Penhall’s exciting new drama about the music industry. Members of the public who have won the venue’s “birthday performance” ballot will enjoy the very special performance, with the audience receiving a very special memento, having their picture taken for posterity, and be treated to some very special birthday cake.
Daytime celebrations for the community then take centre stage on Saturday 12 May with a free Street Party and family-focused Open House. A 10-piece marching band will lead a procession of revellers on the South Bank outside the National Theatre to The Old Vic, starting from 12 noon. The procession will include representatives from the numerous organisations with roots in The Old Vic – including the National Theatre, English National Opera, and Sadler’s Wells – and there will be performances along the way.
Once the procession has reached the theatre, attendees can expect street performers, activities, food stalls, and an interactive pedal-powered sound system, as well as a programme of completely free activities for ages 3+. These events have limited capacity, so should be booked in advance via The Old Vic’s website.
Saturday evening will see the auditorium transformed into a never-before-seen cabaret space for a one-night-only Bicentenary Variety Night fundraiser. Harking back to The Old Vic’s days as a Music Hall in the 1880s, the evening will include comedy from The Pin; performances from the company of upcoming hip-hop musical Sylvia; dance from The McOnie Company; an exclusive performance written by Dennis Kelly; a brand new musical venture from 2018 Olivier Award nominee Sheila Atim (Girl From The North Country), and more.
Finally, on Sunday 13 May, the weekend will culminate with the already sold-out Bicentenary Fundraising Ball.
Of the anniversary, The Old Vic’s Artistic Director Matthew Warchus said: “‘The beloved Old Vic Theatre, named after a princess but sounding like a pub, is 200 years old. Situated like a beacon, right at the geographical centre of our capital, it occupies a unique place in the hearts of innumerable theatregoers and theatre-makers as London’s local theatre.
“At this anniversary, we celebrate The Old Vic’s iconic and iconoclastic history and look forward to a long and vibrant future as an exciting, welcoming and uplifting hub of creativity. This is your theatre, so come along and celebrate with us.”
The Old Vic is London’s independent theatre, a charity in receipt of no regular public subsidy. Throughout its history, ground-breaking productions, social mobility and inclusion have remained central to its work both on and off stage.