The Old Vic

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What you need to know about The Old Vic:

The Old Vic started life in 1818 as The Royal Coburg. It was later renamed The Royal Victoria, but had a difficult time of it in the years that followed, being sold twice in the 1870s. In 1880, Emma Cons, a temperance reformer, bought it. She rebranded it as a coffee house and place of entertainment.

It became known as The Old Vic when Lilian Baylis took over the venue in the 1910s. Baylis is also famous for running Sadler’s Wells and, under her management, both venues starting staging opera and ballets. What is now the Royal Ballet was in fact known as the Vic-Wells ballet to begin with. In time, opera and ballet moved to Sadler’s Wells, while the Old Vic mainly staged drama, including Shakespeare, as it does today.

The theatre was closed at the start of the Second World War, but reopened in 1940 only to be badly damaged by bombs. It reopened again in 1950, when it became the temporary home of the Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre.

The theatre was put up for sale in 1998. This caused great controversy, at it was suggested that it became a pub, bingo hall or lap dancing club. Luckily it is purchased by The Old Vic Theatre Trust. In 2004, Kevin Spacey became the Artistic Director and the venue became a producing house once again. His tenure included Broadway transfers of A Moon For The Misbegotten and The Norman Conquests. Spacey also performed in Richard II and Richard III.

In 2015, Matthew Warchus took over from Spacey as Artistic Director. The theatre has continued to be regarded as one of the most exciting in London, programming both classic plays and new works, frequently starring some of the biggest names in the business. It seats 1067 people, yet its auditorium always feels surprisingly intimate. It’s also beautifully decorated and painted in soft shades of blue, white and gold. From the outside you’d be hard pressed to miss the colourfully illuminated building just across the road from Waterloo Station. Tickets often sell-out well in advance, so book early.

Top facts about The Old Vic:

  1. In 2016, 55,863 people went to see a performance at The Old Vic for the very first time…
  2. And in the same year a total of 278,181 people watched the 323 performances that took place.
  3. For those wanting to find out more about The Old Vic, you can sign up for one of Ned’s tours. The 75-minute trip around the building takes visitors behind the scenes and provides them with endless fascinating trivia about the theatre.
  4. The Old Vic regularly runs workshops and other educational events aimed at engaging with the local community and nurturing new talent. It’s flagship programme is Old Vic New Voices. This project seeks out new talent connected to all areas of theatre and helps them develop into the next generation of stars.
  5. Thanks to the PwC £10 Previews scheme, at least half of all tickets are priced at £10 for the first five previews of every production. You can snap these up when they become available five weeks before the performances start.

Key information about The Old Vic:


Tube: The closest tube station is Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines), which is a five minute walk from the theatre.

Train: Waterloo train station is a five minute walk from the theatre.

Bus: Bus numbers 1, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 68, N1, N171 and also N68 all travel close to the theatre. To plan you journey in more detail, please visit the Transport for London website.

Parking: The closest car parks are at the Hayward Gallery and Hungerford Bridge. Alternately use the National Theatre car park. Please note that The Old Vic is inside the congestion charge zone . Traffic in the area is likely to be heavy so please allow plenty of time for your journey and use public transport where possible. 

Accessibility info:

The Old Vic is wheelchair accessible, but only through a side entrance in Webber Street. Ramped access leads directly into the Stalls, where there is space for two wheelchair users.

An accessible toilet is available near to the Stalls.

The foyer, box office and bar areas of The Old Vic are all inaccessible for wheelchair users. However, staff are happy to assist with anything during your visit to the theatre.

The auditorium has a Sennheisser infra-red hearing system. You can loan headsets for a £5.00 deposit. Collected them from the cloakroom in the main foyer. If you let the box office know in advance that you will be using the system, they can provide advice on the best areas to sit in the theatre.

Working dogs are welcome in the theatre and you can either arrange for them to accompany you into the auditorium or a member of staff can dog-sit. Please arrange either option in advance with the access team or box office.

The Old Vic runs its own Access List. To join this and keep up to date with access performances and other information, please email [email protected].

To discuss all access requirements and to book tickets, please phone 020 7928 2651.

Access performances:

The Old Vic schedules captioned and audio-described performances, plus touch tours. To find out about future dates and to book tickets, please contact the theatre on the number given above.


The Old Vic has its own café and late night bar named Penny. It is open until 1am Monday – Wednesday and until 2am Thursday – Saturday. They serve speciality coffee, a seasonal artisan menu of fresh produce and a range of alcoholic and soft drinks. They specialise in products from London suppliers and their name is take from the 1882 Penny Lectures, a series of talks given for the entrance fee of a penny. The café donates a penny for each item sold to a local charity in the borough of Lambeth.

In additional to this, the Old Vic also runs Mark’s Bar and the Baylis Bar. A collaboration between the theatre and the chef Mark Hix, Mark’s Bar is open from 6pm serving cocktails and other drinks to theatregoers. From Thursday – Saturday it stays open until 2am. If you download the Old Vic’s new pre-order drinks app, you can beat the queues and have drinks ready and waiting for you in the interval.

Ticket-holders get 20% off in Mark’s Bar and Penny after the performance has finished.

To find out more visit The Old Vic’s website.