The Old Vic by Terry Coleman
The Story of a Great Theatre - From Kean to Olivier to Spacey

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It is particularly fascinating to read about Olivier’s relationship with the Old Vic (Coleman is his biographer)...No wonder Kevin Spacey talks of the “ghosts of actors” at the Old Vic – still feeling the vibrations.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The Old Vic, one of the world's great theatres, opened in 1818 with rowdy melodrama and continued with Edmund Kean in Richard III howled down by the audience. One impresario, among the first of thirteen to go bankrupt there, fled to Milan and ran La Scala. In 1848 a chorus girl tried to murder the leading lady. In 1870 the Vic became a music hall, then a temperance tavern and, from 1912, under Lilian Baylis, both an opera house and the home of Shakespeare. By the 1930s great actors were happy to go there for a pittance - John Gielgud, Charles Laughton, Peggy Ashcroft, and Laurence Olivier. The Vic considered itself a national theatre in all but name.

After the second world war the Royal Ballet and the English National Opera both sprang from the Vic, and the National Theatre, at last established in 1963 under Olivier, made its first home there. In 1980 the Vic was saved from becoming a bingo hall by a generous Toronto businessman. Since 2004 Kevin Spacey, Hollywood actor and the winner of two Oscars, has led a new company there, and toured the world.

 

About Terry Coleman

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Terry Coleman is an independent scholar, novelist, and former journalist. He is the author of Going to America, the acclaimed history of Irish immigration.
 
Published September 30, 2014 by Faber & Faber. 288 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction
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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Kate Kellaway on Nov 16 2014

It is particularly fascinating to read about Olivier’s relationship with the Old Vic (Coleman is his biographer)...No wonder Kevin Spacey talks of the “ghosts of actors” at the Old Vic – still feeling the vibrations.

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