The South Bank was certainly a busy place with Taittinger and talent this weekend with the Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards and The Old Vic, who were celebrating 200 years of creative adventure, hosting a Bicentenary Ball to round off a weekend of uplifting celebrations. Held inside The Old Vic, against the backdrop of the stunning proscenium arch, guests dined within the transformed auditorium. The evening raised vital funds towards securing the theatre’s future.
The Old Vic is London’s independent theatre – a charity in receipt of no regular public subsidy. For almost two centuries this iconic institution has been vital to its local community, while also playing a significant role in developing the cultural landscape of the UK. Throughout its history groundbreaking productions, social mobility and inclusion have remained central to its work both on and off stage.
Throughout the weekend, the theatre embodied the inclusive and open-armed spirit it has upheld for 200 years with a programme of events designed to present something for everyone.
In a global first, on Friday 11 May (the theatre’s actual birthday), The Old Vic and Twitter partnered together to present the first ever global ‘marathon broadcast’ from a theatre across the social media platform. 400,000 people tuned in to view the broadcast, which included the full-length production of Future Conditional by Tamsin Oglesby and interviews and insights of The Old Vic’s work – on and off stage.
That evening the theatre was full of 1,000 theatre-goers, many of whom were visiting The Old Vic for the first time, to help celebrate the landmark occasion with a free performance of Mood Music (and cake).
On Saturday, to mark The Old Vic’s position as the birthplace of the key cultural icons of today’s theatre landscape, crowds gathered on the Southbank to join a procession with staff from organisations who started life at The Old Vic, including the National Theatre, English National Opera, Sadler’s Wells and Morley College. The march led revellers to The Old Vic where over 1,500 people enjoyed a free Street Party and took part in free workshops across the theatre as part of a first ever Open House. That evening saw the auditorium transformed into a never-before-seen cabaret space for a one-night-only Bicentenary Variety Night fundraiser. Harking back to The Old Vic’s days as a Music Hall in the 1880s, the evening saw the return of unadulterated entertainment with performances from the company of upcoming hip-hop musical Sylvia; Tim Minchin; The McOnie Company; beatbox duo Burd; Tim Key; an exclusive performance written by Dennis Kelly performed by Tamsin Greig, Jessica Hynes and Joshua McGuire; and 2018 Olivier Award-winner Sheila Atim (Girl from the North Country) with Arthur Darvill to name but a few.
The finale of the weekend was a full red carpet and Bicentenary Ball attended by Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory, Tim Minchin, Luke Evans, Bertie Carvel, Jim Carter, Imelda Staunton, Jamie Dornan, Amelia Warner, Freddie Fox, Shirley Henderson, Natascha McElthone, Meera Syal, Arinzé Kene, Sheila Atim, Juliet Rylance, Mark Rylance, Andrea Corr, Adrian Lester, Lolita Chakrabarti, Celia Imrie, Sir Derek Jacobi, Lulu, Mark Rylance, Ronan Keating, Charity Wakefield, Hattie Morahan, Haydn Gwynne, Jade Anouka, Hans Zimmer, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Amelia Bullmore, Moyfydd Clark, Nigel Lindsay, Simon Paisley Day, Michael Pennington, Jack Shalloo, Michael Shaeffer, Danny Sapani and many more.
The opening number was reference to the days of music hall at The Old Vic, with an epic rendition of Two Hundred Green Bottles, directed by Artistic Director Matthew Warchus and starring almost 500 people including Old Vic alumni and members of the artistic community – joining together to celebrate 200 years. It featured a Damian Lewis, Bertie Carvel and Adrian Lester trio; live appearances from Lulu, Imelda Staunton, Haydn Gwynne and Rosalie Craig; alumni Dame Judi Dench, Kim Cattrall and Hugh Bonneville as well as surprise contributions from Sting, Bono, Shaggy, Gary Barlow, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Neil Patrick Harris, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Fry, Mel Giedroyc, Davina McCall and Dermot O’Leary.
It also featured special guest appearances from the companies of the Matilda, Dreamgirls, Wicked, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Kinky Boots, The Birthday Party, The Ferryman, the current National Theatre productions, ENO Chorus and The Old Vic Community Choir.
Tim Minchin performed Forever Young in a stunning collaboration with Shirley Henderson and Sheila Atim, Helen McCrory and Damian Lewis hosted Heads & Tails raising an additional £6,000 and the Tiny Tims from A Christmas Carol took to the stage to lead a Pledge Appeal.