The Old Vic Celebrates the Reopening of Transformed Front of House Spaces

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The Old Vic Celebrates the Reopening of Transformed Front of House Spaces

Today, The Old Vic celebrates the reopening of its front of house spaces following a major restoration project to improve accessibility and double the loo provision. This marks the end of the first phase of a multi-phased capital project to renew and transform the 201-year-old building for a 21st century audience.

This project is a physical manifestation of The Old Vic's social mission to support, educate and welcome more people than ever before. The release of the theatre's responsibility report - The Old Vic: Our Impact - sets out in one place for the first time the extent to which the theatre impacts the communities in which it operates. The launch of the Charity Partners scheme; a new Access Membership and a partnership announcement, all further underline The Old Vic's commitment to fulfilling its charitable mission in a socially responsible way.

To celebrate, the theatre shares today further details of phase two of the project, The Annex, and announces that Artistic Director Matthew Warchus will extend his tenure by three years, to 2023, to oversee its completion and opening.

Phase one - Front of House Transformation

The reopening is the culmination of several years' work to transform the historic building, including importantly to enable wheelchair access into The Old Vic for the first time in 200 years and doubling the number of loos.

The improvements were designed by Bennetts Associates, with interior designer Rebecca Richwhite, and project management by Buro Four and Plann. Creative support was donated by Little Greene who created a palette of bespoke Old Vic paint colours; Designer and Old Vic Associate Artist Rob Howell, and Lighting Designer and Old Vic Associate Artist Hugh Vanstone. Notable features include:

  • an accessible entrance on Waterloo Road with a lift down to the Penny café and bar and up to the new accessible Box Office and inner foyer areas

  • a redesigned accessible Penny café and bar with a doubled loo provision including a wheelchair accessible loo, baby changing facilities and two 'roomier' loos

  • an accessible Box Office and inner foyer space featuring a bespoke theatrical curtain designed by Rob Howell

  • the creation of a large outer foyer bar

  • increased loo provision on the Baylis Circle level decorated with the colour Little Greene Old Vic Red which also features throughout the new spaces

The reopening will also see the launch of the Penny café and bar's new food and drink menu with a key focus on ethical production and sustainability, underpinned by a commitment to being 100% single-use plastic-free by early 2020. The revamped drinks offer includes a speciality gin menu with no and low alcohol options and craft beers from local brewers with a focus on gender equality amongst suppliers. Food will be available from 8am until late with a new menu designed by London-based café Brown & Green.

Kate Varah, Executive Director, said: 'We set out to make changes to The Old Vic that were reflective of the needs of today's audiences and our local community. An accessible front of house, new lift, 10 auditorium wheelchair spaces, double the loo provision, an additional bar, and an ethically produced sustainable range of food and wine on offer, all feel like significant steps towards securing The Old Vic's future as an artistic powerhouse and a vital civic resource.'

Phase two - The Annex

The Old Vic recently announced plans to deliver on our commitments even further through the creation of a £12m cultural hub adjacent to The Old Vic - The Annex. The five-storey Annex will invite people to learn, to relax, to socialise, to be entertained and be inspired all under one roof. Underwritten by Lambeth and Southwark Councils, the project will allow the theatre to double the current number of people benefitting from its work each year, as well as thousands more who will drop in to the lively Café-Workspace. The Annex will include a Clore Learning Centre for community groups, schools and colleges with integrated education offices and a library of playtexts freely available to schools and visitors. The theatre will gain the ability to mount Studio Theatre-style performances, diversifying the offer with intimate drama, music, comedy and dance.

On The Annex and his extended tenure Matthew Warchus, Artistic Director, said: 'The Annex will play an absolutely crucial role in consolidating The Old Vic as an exciting and indispensable producing theatre at the heart of its community, and I am delighted to be extending my tenure in order to see it to fruition.'

The Old Vic: Our Impact

To coincide with this major milestone the theatre has released a responsibility report - The Old Vic: Our Impact - setting out the myriad of ways that the theatre positively impacts society, the economy and the environment, of which the majority of audience members may not be aware. The report outlines the seven key principles that encompass how The Old Vic, an unsubsidised charity, goes beyond the productions on stage to contribute to building a fairer society and to consider how it influences national and global priorities. The release of this report is twinned with the launch of The Annex project, evidencing why we urgently need an expanded footprint in order to house our community work for the first time, develop our commercial income to sustain our charitable activities and to use the power of theatre to deliver award-winning education, social mobility and employability projects to double the number of people a year.

Charity Partners

As a registered charity itself, The Old Vic believes that it is vital to encourage those around us to support others. In recent years, through bucket collections at A Christmas Carol, our incredible audiences have raised over £200k for local charities Field Lane and The Felix Project.

As the production returns for Christmas 2019 the theatre is launching a new Charity Partners scheme, with the chance for charities to nominate themselves to be the recipient of our festive bucket collection in 2019. Organisations can visit for information on application criteria (also set out below).

Access Membership

To date, welcoming all audiences to The Old Vic has been challenging as the theatre has grappled with the physical limitations of a 201-year-old building. The reopening is an important moment in the life of the theatre as it changes the landscape of opportunities available to audiences. To celebrate this major shift, we are delighted to launch a new free Access Membership that will, for the first time, allow those requiring access-specific seats to book their tickets online as well as hear about opportunities and news as we look to enhance our offer and utilise the new spaces. This is a significant part of an ongoing initiative at The Old Vic to remove barriers to attending the theatre and ensuring that everybody feels welcome.

Ethical Partnership: Toilet Twinning

As with the work on stage, we recognise the role the theatre plays off stage in inspiring, reflecting and representing the societal conversations and debates of today. A large part of our campaign to raise funds for our front of house works was targeting those who wanted to see our loo provision improved. So it feels fitting that we are now a signed up member of the Toilet Twining project, marking the start of a new ethical partnership that enables families living in poverty to build basic facilities, have access to clean water and learn about hygiene - a vital combination that ultimately saves lives. All 27 of the new loos at The Old Vic are officially twinned with other loos across the globe in support of international relief charity Toilet Twinning.

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