Rebuilding Bristol Old Vic
A sublimely beautiful theatre."
Daniel Day Lewis
On this page, you can read about how we're redeveloping Bristol Old Vic.
Take a look at our newly redeveloped Theatre, auditorium and backstage areas on the slideshow below.
Pics: Philip Vile
Have a look at the sidebar on the right to join the conversation via Twitter and give us your feedback - what you like, what you don't like - on our newly redeveloped Theatre.
If you're interested in contributing to our ongoing redevelopment project, please click the button below or read beneath for details of what's new and what we're working on next.
What we've done...
- Raised the stalls and gallery to dramatically improve sightlines throughout the Georgian auditorium
- Developed a new, flexible thrust stage - not only placing the actors and audience closer together, but giving us the flexibility to program work (like concerts) with five rows of standing room directly at the front of the stage, much like the spaces occupied by the groundlings at London's famous Shakespeare's Globe theatre
- Converted our Paintshop and Sidestage into new, fully functioning performance spaces, so that we can programme even more work
- Built new rehearsal spaces as our current facilities were in desperate need of renovation
- Installed a lift backstage to make the whole building accessible
- Installed improved air-flow, mechanics and insulation, making the building a safer, greener space.
...and most importantly, almost 40 years after it was originally scheduled to happen, we have replaced the seating. In fact, after we put a selection of different seats in our foyer during the summer of 2011, you helped us pick the most comfortable ones.
The second phase of redevelopment is planned to begin in 2014. During this next phase, we are going to transform the foyers, cafe and studio spaces. The whole project will be completed by 2016; in time for our 250th anniversary. You will be able to see our plans for the redevelopment very shortly on this website and in our foyers.
For further information call the Development team on 0117 907 2689 or email on email@example.com
...and where we have come from
Our story begins with 50 merchants, lawyers and politicians joining together in 1766 to fund the construction of a new theatre in the city. For £50 each, a significant sum in those days, these philanthropists received a silver token promising the bearer the "sight of every performance", a promise we still honour today. Designed by the Bristol architect James Saunderson, the theatre was the first in Britain to do away with the traditional rectangular auditorium shape and adopt the ‘horseshoe' shape now seen across the world. Apart from sloping the star-studded ceiling in 1800 to accommodate the new gallery tier, the auditorium has remained largely unchanged for well over 200 years.
In 1946, the newly formed Arts Council formed the first regional subsidised company by sending a group of actors from the London Old Vic to set up home in Bristol, hence our present name, Bristol Old Vic. The name was also given to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (opened by Laurence Olivier at the same time). Although we are now independent entities, the School and Theatre continue a close association with students often rehearsing and performing in our spaces. Information about Bristol Old Vic Theatre School can be found here.
In the 1970s, we underwent a massive redevelopment, incorporating the magnificent Coopers' Hall on King Street as our foyer space and adding a 150 seat studio theatre. Coopers' Hall now forms the oldest part of the collection of buildings that has become known as Bristol Old Vic. The renovations in the 1970s were the last major capital project for the building, and money for the project ran out which meant that many parts of our building have not been renovated since the 1940s. Currently, many parts of our building are in a state of disrepair, the spaces are confusingly laid out, and our facilities are inadequate.
In March 2011, we started work on a £19.26 million redevelopment project - a scheme that has been promised to the city for almost 20 years. By 2016, when the redevelopment is completed, we will be able to produce more theatre in more spaces, have a welcoming and open foyer and café space and an outreach programme that is embedded in our building. Moreover, we will have created a landmark building for Bristol that will welcome audiences from across the country. During 2012 and next year, if you come and see us, you won't see a huge change front of house, but our newly redeveloped Theatre is something we're hugely proud of. We hope you like it, too.