London

The Ultimate Guide to visiting the Old Vic

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4.4 Stars out of 5 based on 694 Reviewsarrow

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Open: Mon - Thurs: 9:30am to 5:30PM

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Price: £18 - £34

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Time Needed: 2,5 hours

With a ton of award-winning plays, performances and musicals, to a royal and Kevin Spacey connection, The Old Vic shouldn’t be missed by any theatre fanatic during a visit to London.

Not only is The Old Vic one of the oldest theatres in London and one of the most famous theatres in the world, it’s also become known as “The Actors’ Theatre” thanks to jump-starting the careers of some of the best actors and actresses in British history.

The theatre now known as The Old Vic first opened in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, and was designed by architect Rudolph Cabanel. The Old Vic has gone through several refurbishments and name changes throughout its history, and was renamed as the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1833, the Royal Victoria Palace in 1871, and the Royal Victoria Hall in 1880 in honour of Queen Victoria.

Under the direction of Lilian Baylis (who acquired the theatre in 1912 after the death of her aunt, Emma Cons), The Old Vic became known around the world for showcasing countless Shakespearean productions such as Hamlet, Richard II, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Othello, just to name a few.

The Old Vic has also helped catapult the careers of countless successful British actors and actresses, and some of the many famous names who have once performed on its stage include Ian McKellen, Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson to Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, AlbertIan Mc Finney, Peter O’Toole, and many, many more.

In recent years, The Old Vic has become synonymous with the famed American actor, producer and director Kevin Spacey, who spent 12 years working as the Artistic Director for the theatre between 2003 and 2015. Under his direction, the theatre has put on countless highly-raved about productions such as Cinderella, The Taming Of The Shrew, Dancing at Lughnasa, Kiss Me Kate, and many more.

 

Old Vic Kevin Spacey Bow on Stage
Old Vic Stage Door Sign
Old Vic Audience
Old Vic at Night
Old Vic Sign
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The Old Vic Highlights

There are several different performances held at The Old Vic throughout the year, and each performance usually runs for about one or two months.

But besides watching an unforgettable and award-winning performance at one of the most prestigious theatres in the world, visitors can now take a tour around The Old Vic with the Stage Door Manager Ned Seago, learn more about the theatre’s most famous patrons, and even hear some ghost stories as well.

The tour covers some of the many famous actors and actresses who once worked at the theatre (such as Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey, and Laurence Olivier), and will lead visitors through the backstage areas.

Every December Ned also hosts the theatre’s ever-popular Christmas Tour, where visitors can sip on a glass of mulled wine and munch on mince pie after taking a tour around The Old Vic.

Special Tips

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Make sure you download The Old Vic Bar app before you visit, so you can pre-order your interval and post-show drinks directly from your mobile; (and make sure you take advantage of the 20% discount for your first order as well).

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Be aware that the Dress Circle and Lilian Baylis Circle sections can only be accessed via steps, and is not recommended for anyone with mobility issues as there is no customer lift.

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Be aware that the two rows around the edge of the balcony of the Lilian Baylis Circle are benches and can get quite uncomfortable after an hour or so.

Getting There

getting there

Address

The Cut, Lambeth, London SE1 8NB, United Kingdom (See map).

getting there

By Tube

The nearest stations are Waterloo Station (a three-minute walk away), Blackfrairs (a 12-minute walk away) and Southwark (a five-minute walk away).

getting there

By Train

The nearest station is Waterloo which is a three-minute walk away.

getting there

By Bus

You can reach The Old Vic via routes 1, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 68, N1, N171 and N68.

Visiting The Old Vic

Try to dress as conservatively and respectfully as possible during your visit to The Old Vic (especially for a performance).

There is a cafe and bar at the premises, and toilet facilities located on every level of the theatre.

There is a cloakroom where you can keep your coats and luggage during the performance which costs £1 per item or £2 for larger suitcases. The cloakroom opens one hour before the start of each show, and closes 15 minutes after the performance.

It is highly recommended that you purchase your tickets either over the phone or online beforehand, as The Old Vic’s Box Office can get incredibly busy on performance nights. Customers can either have their tickets posted to them, or pick them up at the Box Office up until 7:30 p.m.on the night of the performance or 2:30 p.m. for matinee performances; (however, make sure arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of each show as the queues can get quite long).

If you arrive late for a performance, there will be a monitor so you can watch the show while you wait for a latecomer’s entry point, and all theatregoers can see more information on the performances at the front-of-house-boards on the night of each performance.

Tours of The Old Vic last for approximately 75 minutes, and booking in advance is highly recommended as spaces are limited. For more information on tour dates and times, visit The Old Vic’s official website.

When to Visit

There are three levels of seating (Stalls, Dress Circle and the Lilian Baylis Circle) which range in price and view, and tickets cost anywhere from £27 to £75 depending on which performance time or seat you choose. Evening performances are usually more expensive, while seats in Lilian Baylis Circle tend to be cheaper.

There are discounted tickets available for purchase on the day of a performance, as well as PwC £10 Previews tickets given out for the first five performances of every show.

Tickets can be exchanged, but only if the theatre is given more than 48 hours’ notice before the original performance, and there is a £2 exchange fee for each ticket.

Performances usually take place at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and The Box Office is open from Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Penny Bar at the theatre is open from:

  • Monday to Wednesday, 8 am. To 1 a.m.
  • Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

If you’re interested in going on one of Ned’s Tours of The Old Vic, tickets cost £10 per person, or £8 for seniors and students.

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