The Old Vic, as the theatre is known today, was originally designed by Rudolph Cabanel and the final cost was £12,000. Some of the construction material for the theatre is said to have been recycled from the former Savoy Palace in the Strand.
The theatre originally opened as the Royal Coburg Theatre on the 11th of May 1818, with three different styles of entertainment in one night; a Harlequinade ‘Midnight Revelry; an Asiatic Ballet ‘Alzora and Nerine’; and a Melodramatic Spectacle ‘Trial by Battle or Heaven Defend the Right’ by William Barrymore.
The theatre was built on former marsh land, known as Lambeth Marsh, and took several years to construct due to lack of finance.
The Foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Saxe Coburg and Princess Charlotte of Wales in September 1816, and building began that year. However, work was halted in early 1817 when the money ran out and was only begun again in October when Joseph Glossop, who was a wealthy Merchant’s son, provided further funding. Glossop took over the management of the Theatre and it finally opened on the 11th of may 1818.
Did you know….?
- The Old Vic could originally hold 3,800 people, but then in 1871, the cavernous auditorium was replaced with a far finer 2,300 seater. Then sometime in the 1980s, it became a 1,100- seat auditorium.
- The Old Vic was the first home for the National Theatre Company, which Laurence Olivier formed in 1963.
- A false cry of ‘Fire!’ caused a stampeded in the upper gallery of The Old Vic, and lead to the death of 16 people.