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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


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What’s on


  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Drama

In a wedge shaped set, bright yellow as bile, a machine does its work.  In Richard Jones’s staggering revival of Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 expressionist classic, our first glimpse of Rosie Sheehy’s Young Woman is the sight of her freaking out in a press of black-clad ’20s New Yorkers, her blue patterned dress frumpy next to their sharp, dark angles. The story cuts to her office. To the strains of what sounds like a demonic metronome, her colleagues gossip about her, repetitive gibberish underscored by their bafflement that the Young Woman is late – why would anyone would want to miss any of this?  Sheehy arrives and she’s not a timid wallflower, but earthy, speaking with a mile-wide Brooklyn accent. She lives with her elderly Irish mother, who is later delighted when her daughter reveals she has had a marriage proposal from her boring, unattractive, much older boss (Tim Frances). Her mum says she should marry him; an upset Young Woman screams like a wild animal; she marries him anyway. Jones’s production is a sort of infernal anxiety machine, percussive and remorseless, each hallucinatory scene immaculately crafted with its own distinct mood. Although the tone of the story changes repeatedly, catharsis is banned here. Hyemi Shin’s retina-searing set is unforgettable, Benjamin Grant’s sound design skin-crawling unnerving, Adam Silverman’s lighting exquisitely unsettling, Sarah Fahie’s movement ravishingly creepy.  Jones’s production is an infernal anxiety machine As much install

The Constituent

  • Drama

Whatever you think of James Corden, there’s no denying that the actor-slash-TV personality has an immaculate stage CV, consiting as it does of the original National Theatre productions of ‘The History Boys’ and ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’. His lengthy escapade being a talkshow host in America has means he’s not acted on stage in over a decade, but time to find out if third time is the charm as he stars in Joe Penhall’s new drama ‘The Constituent’. In it, the wonderful Anna Maxwell Martin stars as overworked backbench MP, with Corden as her ex-squaddie constituent angry at her for the catastrophic state of his life. The exact tone is hard to gauge without anyone having seen it, but it does sound like a fairly serious affair, in a post Jo Cox-style, although all will be revealed soon enough. Old Vic boss Matthew Warchus directs.

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