It’s no secret that I love going to the theatre, particularly in London where so many of the theatre’s have a great history. Now while I have never been to see anything at the Old Vic, I was curious to hear more about its history and influence in London.
Terry Coleman’s history of the theatre shows great research and detail but written in an unsentimental and business like manner that can be a struggle in places.
At first I thought it was going to be a book that told some of the great stories behind the scenes of productions as well as the business side, but the speed of the book leaves very little room for those types of stories which is slightly disappointing considering the those who have appeared on the Old Vic’s stage.
What the book does do though is show how resilient the theatre has been through its bad and good times and the variety of productions that it has chosen to stage over the years – some more successful than others.
Coleman has clearly taken a lot of time to research this book before putting anything down on paper and this is very much to his credit but it doesn’t really reveal much about the character of the theatre -and purely looks at the financial gains and losses.
Yet it is interesting to read about the very different approaches that each of the Artistic Directors have taken in terms of what they felt the Old Vic was representative of. For example, in Kevin Spacey’s ‘term’ as Artistic Director, audiences were able to witness a mixture of American classics as well as musicals and plays by British playwrights. In comparision, Laurence Olivier preferred Shakespeare and other classics that featured roles that he could see himself in.
Olivier is given a large proportion of the book and it is clear from the way in which the author writes about him that Coleman admired the actor greatly. But it would have been nice to hear more about the Spacey decade in a bit more detail and about what he achieved for the theatre (yes I realise that it is more recent but his impact should still not be forgotten about even in this early stage of his departure).
This book feels as though it has been rushed through to some extent and opinions of those who have performed at the Old Vic are occasionally overlooked which is a great shame. It is still a fascinating book for those who want a general look at the history of the theatre but not for those who want to hear more stories involving those who performed on stage or those who had first hand experience of the Old Vic in the past.