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Old Vic

  • Theatre
  • Waterloo
  • Recommended
  1. Photo: Manuel Harlan
    Photo: Manuel Harlan

    The Old Vic

  2. Photo: David Jensen
    Photo: David Jensen

    The Old Vic

  3. Photo: David Jensen
    Photo: David Jensen

    The Old Vic bar


Time Out says

One of London's oldest theatres, the Old Vic offers big, serious plays, big, serious stars and a few musicals and surprises.

What is it?

The Old Vic is an iconic theatre right next to Waterloo rail station that’s been around since 1818. It has a lively history, and was once famous for staging all of Shakespeare’s plays between 1914 and 1923 (the first theatre to do so). In 1963 it became the first home of the National Theatre, which finally moved to its purpose-built South Bank digs in 1976. After a tumultuous few decades, the ‘modern’ Old Vic launched in 2003 with US actor Kevin Spacey as its artistic director. He was succeeded by current boss Matthew Warchus, whose programming constitutes an eclectic array of shows, from musical theatre to modern classic adaptations (it’s especially famous these days for Jack Thorne’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, for example). It’s been home to theatre stars Judi Dench, Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith, to name a few. 

Is it worth visiting?

Absolutely, yes. This is, in our opinion, one of the best theatres in London, a blend of star-studded casts, large-scale production and a really beautiful historic theatre space. One-off tourist or life-long local, The Old Vic is a big ol’ fun London night out for families, pals or as a solo eve to see some seriously good theatre. Plus, The Old Vic is worth visiting even if you’re not seeing a show; take advantage of good wifi at the café or check out its bar, also open to non-theatre-goers (and open till 2am Thurs-Sun). Aside from the classics (reds, whites, rosés, Camden beer and Tony’s Chocoloney) there’s seasonal cocktails, like the winter Aperol Spritz featuring ginger beer instead of soda, which I think is a stroke of genius. 

Tickets, accessibility and booking

Ticket prices here really depend on the show, but generally they’re pretty affordable, ranging from £10-20 to £100+ for the really good seats or for peak-time performances. The Old Vic is fully wheelchair accessible (as is its downstairs bar), and it runs accessible performances (BSL interpreted, relaxed viewings, etc). Tickets can be booked online or over the phone, and you get out of the booking fee if you’re a member of Old Vic Together. 

Where’s good to eat near the Old Vic?

You’re 10 minutes’ walk from Forza Wine at the National Theatre, for great cocktails, Italian small plates and a very long wine list. Or if you’re craving good, hearty pub food, head to the Anchor & Hope for nose-to-tail cooking, headed up by St John’s old chef team. For drinks, you’re five minutes from Scootercaffé, a seriously cool retro café/bar with mismatched vintage furniture, a sultry basement and twinkling jazz music. Or try the very swanky Lyaness for pricey but delicious cocktails.

Can’t get enough? Here are the best theatre shows in London, handpicked by our theatre critic Andrzej Lukowski

Ella Doyle
Written by
Ella Doyle


103 The Cut
Waterloo Rd
Tube: Waterloo; Rail: Waterloo
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Bar open 6pm-midnight Mon and Tue; 1pm-midnight Wed; 6pm-2am Thu and Fri; 1pm-2am Sat
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  • Drama

Sophie Treadwell’s classic play ‘Machinal’ was last seen in London not so long ago with Natalie Abrahami’s excellent 2018 revival at the Almeida. This, however, is an altogether larger stage for Treadwell’s enduring 1928 impressionist drama. Loosely based on the real-life story of convicted murderer Ruth Snyder – which Treadwell covered as a journalist – the play follows Helen Jones, a young woman living a dull, denatured life as a minor cog in society. But when a new love comes into her life, she snaps and rebels. Old Vic regular Richard Jones directs this transfer from the Bath Theatre Royal, which stars rising star Rosie Sheehy as Helen.

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